Ukraine leader says anti-terror operation under way in Donetsk region
An “anti-terrorist operation” is under way in part of Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, Ukraine’s acting President Oleksandr Turchynov told the country’s parliament Tuesday, CNN reports.
“It will be conducted step by step, responsibly, cautiously,” he said. “The aim of these actions is to protect the citizens of Ukraine, to stop terror, to stop criminality, to stop attempts to tear Ukraine to pieces.”
A spokesman for Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, Evgen Rojenyuk, confirmed that a National Guard battalion made up of 350 troops was sent to eastern Ukraine from Kiev on Tuesday morning. Rojenyuk said the battalion was headed for the Donetsk region. The deployment was also confirmed by the deputy head of Ukraine’s Internal Affairs Ministry, Mikola Velychkovich, though he would not confirm the numbers involved.
US President Barack Obama has urged his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to use his influence to make separatists in eastern Ukraine stand down. The phone call between the two leaders came as pro-Russian activists continued to occupy buildings in eastern towns, the BBC informs.
For his part, Mr Putin rejected accusations of Russian interference, calling the reports “unreliable”.
The White House said the “frank and direct” conversation between the two presidents was made at Russia’s request.
“The president expressed grave concern about Russian government support for the actions of armed, pro-Russian separatists who threaten to undermine and destabilise the government of Ukraine,” a statement said. “The president emphasised that all irregular forces in the country need to lay down their arms, and he urged President Putin to use his influence with these armed, pro-Russian groups to convince them to depart the buildings they have seized.”
The statement also threatened Moscow with wider sanctions, saying “the costs Russia already has incurred will increase if those actions persist”.
The Kremlin said in a statement that recent unrest in Ukraine’s south-east was “the result of the unwillingness and inability of the leadership in Kiev to take into account the interests of Russia and the Russian-speaking population”. It said Mr Putin had urged Mr Obama to “use the resources at the disposal of the American side” to help prevent any bloodshed. It dismissed claims that Russia was interfering in Ukraine, saying the accusations were based on “questionable information”.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s acting President, Olexander Turchynov, has announced the start of an “anti-terrorist operation”. He told parliament it had begun in the “north of Donetsk Region” on Tuesday morning and was being conducted “stage by stage, in a responsible and weighed manner”.
Mr Turchynov said on Tuesday the aim of the operation in Donetsk was to “protect Ukrainian citizens, to stop the terror, to stop the crime, to stop the attempts to tear our country apart”.
Pro-Russian rebels have seized buildings in about 10 towns and cities across eastern provinces that form the heartland of Ukraine’s heavy industry.
The extent of the operation was unclear but unconfirmed reports on Russian media, quoting separatists, speak of Ukrainian armour being on the move near the flashpoint towns of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.