Pro-Russian activists gather in front of the government building in Ukraine’s eastern city of Donetsk, April 9. A group of pro-Russian activists, who had seized government buildings in Ukraine’s eastern city of Donetsk, proclaimed the region’s independence from Kiev on Monday, local media reported.
EU, Russia, US and Ukraine are to meet next week. Merkel criticises Russia for not doing enough to ease the tension. Kerry says Russian special forces and agents had been the catalyst behind the chaos.
Ukraine’s interior minister has warned pro-Russian activists who have taken over state buildings in eastern cities to enter talks to find a political solution or face “force”. Arsen Avakov said the situation would “be resolved in 48 hours” either way, the BBC reports.
Earlier, a number of people held inside a state security building in Luhansk since Sunday were freed.
The EU, Russia, US and Ukraine are to meet next week in the first four-way meeting since the crisis erupted. The talks are aimed at breaking the impasse since Russia annexed the southern Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in February. Russian troops are now massed along the borders of the two countries.
Mr Avakov said an “anti-terrorist operation” was under way in the regions of Luhansk, Donetsk and Kharkiv and would be concluded within the next two days.
“There are two options,” he told journalists, “political and negotiations – and force.
“For those who want dialogue, we propose talks and a political solution. For the minority who want conflict they will get a forceful answer from the Ukrainian authorities.”
Shortly before he spoke, Ukraine’s security service said 56 people held inside its Luhansk offices had been allowed to leave following two rounds of negotiations with local politicians.
U.S. Navy ship to arrive in Black Sea by Thursday
The Navy warship USS Donald Cook is scheduled to enter the Black Sea no later than Thursday as part of the latest U.S. military effort to demonstrate support for Eastern European allies concerned about Russia’s troop buildup along its border with Ukraine, according to CNN.
The movement of the guided missile destroyer was confirmed to CNN by two U.S. military officials who declined to be identified because a formal announcement has not been made. The ship will conduct exercises and port visits while in the Black Sea. The guided missile destroyer USS Truxtun took part in scheduled exercises in the Black Sea last month and departed March 21.
NATO members Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey have Black Sea coastlines, as do non-members Ukraine, Russia and Georgia.
The movement of the Navy warship into the Black Sea comes ahead of an April 15 meeting of top NATO political representatives to discuss and potentially approve a series of recommendations for additional military measures, including shortening the “response time” of NATO forces if there were a crisis. Other options on the table include more military exercises with member nations including the United States and potentially providing military advisers to Ukraine.
Using classified and commercial satellite imagery, the United States estimates there are up to 40,000 Russian troops on the border with eastern Ukraine. Those troops remain positioned so close, and are so heavily armed, that the U.S. and NATO calculate they could “roll across” eastern Ukraine in three to five days, one official said. That’s an estimate previously made by Gen. Philip Breedlove, the military chief of NATO. There has been no withdrawal of Russian forces; other than perhaps small numbers, so the estimate remains in place, the official said.