– Ukraine crisis: Nato warns Russia against further intervention (BBC News, April 8, 2014):
Nato has warned Russia that further intervention in Ukraine would be a “historic mistake” with grave consequences.
Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Moscow must pull back troops it has massed on the Ukrainian border.
On Tuesday, Ukraine regained control of one of the government buildings occupied by pro-Russian activists in the east of the country.
Moscow has said that using force to end the protests could lead to civil war.
However, in Luhansk, officials said “radicals” occupying the state security building had placed explosives and were holding about 60 people against their will. Activists in the building denied having explosives or hostages but said they had seized an armoury full of automatic rifles.
Kiev says the unrest in the east is being fomented by Russia following its annexation of the Crimean peninsula.
Russia took control in Crimea – where Russian-speakers are in a majority – after a disputed referendum.
In another developments:
- The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet senior officials on Wednesday to discuss economic ties with Ukraine – including energy supplies.
- The International Monetary Fund says Russian growth this year is likely to be “subdued” partly because of tensions with Ukraine and warned of further damage if sanctions are intensified.
“I urge Russia to step back and not escalate the situation in east Ukraine,” Mr Rasmussen said in Paris where he was attending a seminar on Nato reforms.
“If Russia were to intervene further in Ukraine, it would be an historic mistake. It would have grave consequences for our relationship with Russia and it would further isolate Russia internationally.”
The US and the EU have already imposed targeted sanctions on Russian and Ukrainian individuals over the annexation of Crimea.
Mr Rasmussen added: “We call on Russia to pull back the tens of thousands of troops it has massed on Ukraine’s borders, engage in a genuine dialogue with the Ukrainian authorities and respect its international commitments.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry, addressing a Senate panel on Tuesday, said Russian special forces and agents had been “the catalyst behind the chaos of the last 24 hours”.
He said recent events “could potentially be a contrived pretext for military intervention just as we saw in Crimea”.
As tensions rose on Tuesday, Russian Senator Viktor Ozerov, chairman of the defence and security committee, said President Putin could “theoretically” send troops anywhere in Ukraine under the powers given to him by parliament that allowed him to move forces into Crimea.
“The Federation Council gave its agreement to the president… to use the armed forces in order to preserve people’s lives. We have not cancelled this resolution,” he told Ukraine’s Unian news agency.
Hundreds of pro-Russia demonstrators seized government buildings in Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk on Sunday night, barricading themselves inside and raising Russian flags.
Some called on Moscow to send “peacekeepers” to their aid.
On Tuesday, Ukrainian authorities said they had retaken control of the building in Kharkiv and hoped that offices in Luhansk and Donetsk would be freed shortly as well.
Some 70 people were detained in Kharkiv without shots being fired, Ukraine’s interior ministry said.
In Donetsk on Monday, protesters inside the regional authority building declared a separatist republic and called for a referendum on secession from Ukraine.
On Tuesday, Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danylo Lubkivsky told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the situation in eastern Ukraine was “under control but remains dangerous”.
The Russian foreign ministry increased pressure on Kiev on Tuesday by accusing it of making “military preparations that are fraught with the risk of unleashing a civil war”.
Russia is refusing to recognise the new authorities in Kiev who took power after pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in February.
Mr Yanukovych fled Kiev for Russia after months of street protests triggered by his refusal to sign an association agreement with the EU in favour of closer ties with Russia.
More than 100 people died in the ensuing unrest.