Ukraine: Pro-Russian militants to be targeted in renewed security operation

Tortured bodies found. Lavrov says Moscow will respond if its interests are attacked in Ukraine.

Pro-Russian militants in four key cities will be targeted as authorities seek to regain control of Ukraine’s restive east, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Vitaliy Yarema said Wednesday, CNN informs.
“The active phase of the anti-terrorist operation continues,” Yarema was quoted as saying by state-run news agency, Ukrinform.
Militants in the four cities – Kramatorsk, Slaviansk, Donetsk and Luhansk – have seized government buildings and show no signs of giving them up despite an international deal agreed to last week in Geneva, Switzerland. Under the deal, illegal militia groups were to disarm and vacate occupied buildings, with an amnesty promised in return.
But the pact, aimed at easing tensions in eastern Ukraine, appears to be faltering five days on, with Kiev and Moscow each accusing the other of failing to live up to its commitments.
On Tuesday, acting President Oleksandr Turchynov also called for a renewal of anti-terror measures across the country, citing the discovery of two tortured bodies near Slaviansk.
One of the victims was politician Vladimir Rybak, the President said. He was a member of the local parliament and belonged to the President’s political party.
“The terrorists who basically have taken the entire Donetsk region hostage have crossed the line with torturing and killing Ukrainian patriots,” Turchynov said. Such crimes are committed with the support of Russian forces, he charged.
But a statement from a pro-Russian leader in Slaviansk, de facto Mayor Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, rejected the President’s claim, and placed blame for the deaths on far-right Ukrainian nationalist extremists.
Ukrainian and U.S. officials say they think Russian special forces are in the region and are behind efforts to seize government buildings and generally promote unrest – a claim Moscow denies.
Lavrov: Moscow will respond
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (photo) has said Moscow will respond if its interests are attacked in Ukraine. He also accused the US of “running the show” in Kyiv with the pro-Western interim government, Deutsche Welle reports.
Foreign Minister Lavrov told the state-controlled RT English language television channel on Wednesday that Moscow will respond if its interests are attacked in Ukraine.
“If we are attacked, we would certainly respond. If our interests, our legitimate interests, the interests of Russians have been attacked directly, like they were in South Ossetia for example, I do not see any other way but to respond in accordance with international law,” he said, referring to a separatist territory in Georgia where Moscow sent troops in 2008.
American journalist held
An American journalist working for Vice News is being held by pro-Russian separatists in Slaviansk, Vice News said in a statement posted on its website Tuesday. The international channel said it is in contact with the U.S. State Department and other appropriate government authorities to secure the release of Simon Ostrovsky.
Ukraine to request IMF loan
Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Wednesday that the Cabinet has approved a formal request to the International Monetary Fund for a loan, which would help stabilize the economic situation in Ukraine. Yatsenyuk said he hoped to receive the answer by the end of the month.
U.S. paratroopers to Poland
Russia’s deployment of what NATO estimates to be 40,000 troops near its border with Ukraine has made other former Soviet nations nervous, besides the government in Kiev.
“As a result of what’s going on in Ukraine,” the United States is deploying Army paratroopers nearby, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said Tuesday. Four companies of paratroopers based in Italy will be sent to Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia over the next few months for military exercises, he said.
Special Putin coins mark Crimea annexation
Commemorative coins bearing an image of Russian President Vladimir Putin are being minted at a Russian factory to mark the Kremlin’s takeover of Crimea, it appears, the BBC informs. Putin’s face is on one side of the 1kg (2.2lb) coin while the other shows a map of the Crimean Peninsula, Moscow daily Komsomolskaya Pravda reports. Factory director Vladimir Vasyuhin explains that by bringing the Crimean peninsula “back home”, Putin had “demonstrated the qualities of a wise strategist and politician”. The limited edition of 500 silver coins has been called The Gatherer of Russian Lands – a phrase traditionally associated with Ivan III – better known as Ivan the Great.

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