Russia called on Ukraine to halt all military preparations in the east “immediately” or risk civil war as the U.S. accused Russia of instigating unrest that echoes the run-up to its annexation of Crimea.
Ukraine sent additional police forces into eastern regions after pro-Russian protesters seized government buildings in Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv this week. The U.S. has said there is evidence that some protesters may be paid provocateurs.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry fired back, saying that about 150 specialists from the U.S. private military firm Greystone and members of Praviy Sektor, a group Russia has accused of nationalism and neo-Nazi sympathies, are working with Ukrainian forces to put down protests in eastern regions. The U.S. mercenaries are dressed up as Sokol special forces troops, the Foreign Ministry said in a website statement.
“We call for the immediate halt of all military preparations, which risk sparking a civil war,” the ministry said. Greystone didn’t immediately respond to e-mailed request for comment after U.S. business hours.
There is evidence supporting the contention of Ukrainian officials that some of the pro-Russian separatists who seized administration buildings in the cities of Luhansk and Donetsk were brought in from outside, White House press secretary Jay Carney said yesterday in Washington.
“If Russia moves into eastern Ukraine, either overtly or covertly, this would be a very serious escalation,” Carney said. There “will be costs for further transgressions” against Ukraine’s sovereignty, he said.
Ukraine forces closed the center of Kharkiv, the capital of the eastern region of the same name, and the metro until the end of an anti-terrorist operation, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on his Facebook Inc. page. The Kharkiv regional govt building was “again” freed of separatists and about 70 people were detained, he said.