Europe

Thursday 21 August 2014

Ukraine crisis: Russia 'orchestrating destabilisation of eastern regions'

Moscow instigating violence, says British Foreign Secretary William Hague, as pro-Russians seize police building in another city

Published 14/04/2014 | 16:46

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Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Monday, April 14, 2014. (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service)
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow today

BRITAIN has accused Russia of a "deliberate destabilisation" of Ukraine as pro-Moscow separatists continued to seize yet another police building in the east of the country, ignoring the deadline to leave.

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Arriving for talks in Luxembourg for with EU foreign ministers, British Foreign Secretary William Hague called for a "clear and united international response" to the latest violations.

He said that EU officials needed to press ahead with preparations for a new wave of hard-hitting economic sanctions against Russia if it continued its efforts to undermine its neighbour.

"There do have to be consequences to a further and further escalation by Russia of this crisis," he told reporters.

Moscow has denied orchestrating the latest wave of seizures of police stations and other public buildings in the largely pro-Russian eastern Ukraine, but Mr Hague said their protestations lacked a "shred of credibility".

"There can't be any real doubt that this is something that has been planned and brought about by Russia," he said.

"It has all the appearances of a further gross, deliberate and premeditated violation of the independence and sovereignty of Ukraine.

"It is also clearly a very dangerous thing to do and therefore there has to be a clear and united international response to that.

"I don't think denials of Russian involvement have a shred of credibility."

Pro-Russian separatists on Monday ignored an ultimatum to leave occupied government buildings in eastern Ukraine while another group of rebels attacked a police headquarters

Rebels in the town of Slaviansk, which was expected on Monday to be the focus of a broad government "anti-terrorist" operation involving the army, issued a bold call for Russian President Vladimir Putin to help them.

Though he said on Monday that the offensive was going ahead, Ukraine's interim president Oleksander Turchinov sacked the state security chief in charge of the operation, signalling possible discord behind the scenes.

Turchinov also took a risky step to try to undercut rebels' demands, by holding out the prospect of a referendum on the future shape of the Ukrainian state. He suggested this could be held at the same time as a presidential election on May 25.

The European Union threatened Russia with more sanctions over its actions in eastern Ukraine, which Britain said was being destabilised by Moscow, although some EU states said diplomacy should be given more time.

Josie Ensor, Telegraph.co.uk

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