Viktor Yanukovych decries Crimea ‘tragedy’. Russian FM Lavrov called on the West and Ukraine to de-escalate rhetoric. NASA suspends cooperation with Russia. Russia terminates Black Sea Fleet agreements.
Ukraine’s special police shot dead dozens of anti-government protesters in Kiev in February, an initial government inquiry has found, the BBC reports.
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov told reporters 12 members of the Berkut police had been identified as snipers, and three of them had been arrested. The inquiry looked into the shootings on Instytutska Street in Kiev, where 76 people were killed on 18-20 February.
More than 100 people are now known to have died in Ukraine since the unrest began in November over Mr Yanukovych’s last-minute rejection of a landmark deal with the EU in favour with closer Russian ties.
At a news conference in Kiev, Mr Avakov presented the initial findings of the investigation into the mass shootings that shocked Ukraine and the world.
He identified Maj Dmytro Sadovnyk as commander of a unit suspected of shooting dead at least 17 protesters.
Ukrainian Security Service chief Valentyn Nalyvaychenko said that Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) operatives had been involved in planning operations against the protesters. He added that the FSB had sent “tonnes” of explosives and weapons by plane to Ukraine. The Ukrainian authorities also said that the killings of the protesters took place “under the direct leadership” of Mr Yanukovych.
In another development, Ukraine’s deposed President Viktor Yanukovych said Russia’s annexation of Crimea is “a tragedy” and he hopes it will become part of Ukraine again, the BBC further informs. In an interview with the Associated Press and Russian channel NTV, he also said he gave no orders to open fire on protesters in the capital, Kiev.
Mr Yanukovych, now in Russia, said he would try to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to return Crimea to Ukraine. “Crimea is a tragedy, a major tragedy,” he said. “We must set such a task and search for ways to return to Crimea on any conditions, so that Crimea may have the maximum degree of independence possible… but be part of Ukraine.” Referring to the shooting in Kiev, he said: “I personally never gave any orders to shoot.”
Lavrov: Russian troops to return to base after exercises
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says troops near the Ukrainian border will return to their permanent bases as soon as they finish military exercises, the Voice of America informs. Ukrainian officials have said as many as 100,000 Russian soldiers along its eastern and southern borders are poised to invade.
Foreign Minister Lavrov Thursday called on the West and Ukraine to de-escalate the rhetoric, which he said is becoming unreasonable. Moscow accuses NATO of reverting to Cold War rhetoric. He is also asking NATO for answers on its plans to beef up defenses in Eastern Europe.