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Russia condemns ‘lawlessness’ in eastern Ukraine

Russia has condemned “lawlessness” in eastern Ukraine, blaming far-right militants for “conniving” with the new authorities in Kiev.
In a statement, the Russian foreign ministry said masked men fired on and injured peaceful protesters last week, the BBC reports. It also accused Ukraine of not being committed to media freedoms after seven Russian journalists were detained.
Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of using blatant propaganda to justify troop deployments in Ukraine’s Crimea.
They have also accused Moscow of stoking unrest in south-eastern Ukraine – a claim denied by the Kremlin.
On Sunday, tens of thousands of people across Ukraine held rival pro-unity and pro-Russian rallies. In Sevastopol, Crimea, pro-Moscow groups beat up pro-Ukrainian activists, a BBC correspondent at the scene reported.
They came as Moscow is continuing to strengthen its grip on Crimea before a secession referendum in Ukraine’s southern region on 16 March.
In the statement on Monday, the Russian foreign ministry said the “well-equipped” gunmen opened fire on “peaceful protesters” in the eastern city of Kharkiv on 8 March.
The city has recently witnessed mass rival rallies, some of which were violent.
However, local Kharkiv police say they are treating the alleged shooting as a minor incident, according to Reuters.
The Russian statement also said the seven Russian journalists had been detained by police in Dnipropetrovsk, also in the east, who accused them of being interested only in “separate provocative stories”.
“The Ukrainian authorities, in violation of all existing bilateral treaties, are not letting Russian citizens into the territory of Ukraine,” the statement added.
And it also voiced Moscow’s surprise over “the shameful silence of our Western partners, human rights groups and foreign media”.
Ukraine has in the past firmly denied similar Russian allegations, instead accusing Moscow of distorting facts to justify its continuing military presence in Crimea.
Kiev points out that monitors of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe have recently been prevented by pro-Russian militia groups from entering Crimea and a number of journalists have been beaten up by militias in the autonomous region.
Yanukovych to make public statement
Reports say Ukraine’s ousted President Viktor Yanukovych will make a public statement at midday on March 11, Radio Free Europe reports.
Unnamed sources close to Yanukovych tell Russian news agencies that Yanukovych will deliver the statement from Russia’s southern city of Rostov-on-Don. It would mark only his second public statement since he fled Ukraine last month during antigovernment unrest.
On February 28, also in Rostov-on-Don, Yanukovych said he was still the legitimate president of Ukraine and dismissed the country’s current authorities as “fascist thugs.”
Russia has miscalculated over Crimea, says Hague
Russia has made a “big miscalculation” in entering Crimea, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has warned. He told the BBC that Western countries could impose “far-reaching” economic sanctions if no diplomatic solution was reached between Russia and Ukraine. Mr Hague warned Moscow that European policies could be “recast” to reduce Russian leverage over Europe.
PM David Cameron has phoned Russian President Vladimir Putin and urged him to de-escalate the crisis.
U.S. deploys 12 F-16 fighter jets to Poland
The United States is sending a dozen F-16 fighter jets and 300 service personnel to Poland as a part of a training exercise in response to the crisis in neighboring Ukraine, the Polish defense ministry said Sunday. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and his Polish counterpart Tomasz Siemoniak agreed to the deployment during a phone call, according to a statement from the Polish ministry, Washington Times informs. “The unit will be composed of 12 F-16 planes and will transport 300 soldiers,” said defense ministry spokesman Jacek Sonta. The fighters had reportedly been sent following a request from Poland

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