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Europe

Ukraine detains Russian military attaché for spying

© AFP

Video by Mark THOMPSON

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-05-01

Ukrainian authorities have detained Russia's military attaché to Kiev on suspicion of spying and ordered the diplomat to leave the country, Ukrainian news services reported Thursday.

Interfax-Ukraine quoted a Ukrainian Foreign Ministry statement as saying, "The military-naval attaché of the embassy of the Russian Federation in Ukraine is declared persona non grata in connection with his actions, which are not in accordance with his diplomatic status."

The diplomat, who was not named, was detained on Wednesday while undertaking "intelligence activities" and would have to leave Ukraine, according to the statement.

The order to leave Ukraine came as US Secretary of State John Kerry claimed in a private meeting that the US intelligence community had phone intercepts of pro-Russian forces in Ukraine being managed by government handlers in Moscow.

In a report published on Tuesday containing secretly taped recording, US news site The Daily Beast quoted Kerry as saying: “Intel is producing taped conversations of intelligence operatives taking their orders from Moscow and everybody can tell the difference in the accents, in the idioms, in the language. We know exactly who’s giving those orders, we know where they are coming from.”

Kerry was speaking at a private meeting last Friday at the Trilateral Commission, a Washington DC-based think-tank focused on fostering relations between the US, Europe and Japan.

Moscow "lying"

While Kerry did not name specific Russian officials in the recordings obtained by The Daily Beast, he accused Moscow of lying to the international community, according to the report.

“It’s not an accident that you have some of the same people identified who were in Crimea and in Georgia and who are now in east Ukraine,” said Kerry. “This is insulting to everybody’s intelligence, let alone to our notions about how we ought to be behaving in the 21st century. It’s thuggism, it’s rogue state-ism. It’s the worst order of behaviour.”

Last month, a US State Department spokeswoman acknowledged that images, supplied by Ukrainian diplomats, of unidentified armed men in eastern Ukraine – or “little green men” as they came to be known – are linked to Russian special forces that have operated in Crimea this year and Georgia in 2008.

Moscow has denied allegations that the mystery men in Ukraine are Russian troops. At an annual press briefing last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin asserted that, “There are no Russian units, special services or instructors in the east of Ukraine.”

Ukrainian security officials ‘helpless’ in the east

The detention of the Russian military attaché in Kiev came hours after Ukraine’s acting President Oleksandr Turchynov conceded that his police and security forces were “helpless” to stifle unrest in the country's east, where pro-Russia gunmen seized more buildings in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on Wednesday.

Insurgents took control of a police station, the mayor's office and the customs service building in Donetsk, as well as the city hall in Alchevsk, an industrial centre of about 110,000, adding to the scores of buildings taken by the separatists over the past month in eastern Ukraine.

Turchynov has twice proclaimed that Ukrainian “anti-terrorist'' operations would regain control of the east. But the power balance on the ground has not swung in Kiev’s favour.

At a meeting with officials from other Ukrainian regions on Wednesday, Turchynov acknowledged the failure of the security operations and indicated the government would back off even trying to bring the most restive parts of the east to heel, focusing instead on trying to keep the unrest from spreading to other parts of the nation of 46 million.

“I will be frank: Today, security forces are unable to quickly take the situation in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions under control,'' Turchynov said. “The security bodies ... are unable to carry out their duties of protecting citizens.''

Ukraine hopes the presidential poll set for May 25 will help restore order after months of civil turmoil in the country, which have seen Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovich toppled by street protests, gun battles in central Kiev and Russia's annexation of the Crimean peninsula.

(FRANCE 24 with Reuters)
 

Date created : 2014-05-01

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