Thursday 18 December 2014

UN calls Ukraine emergency meeting

Published 13/04/2014 | 17:52

A pro-Russian gunman stands guard at a seized police station in the eastern Ukraine town of Slovyansk. (AP)
A pro-Russian gunman stands guard at a seized police station in the eastern Ukraine town of Slovyansk. (AP)
A pro-Russian gunman warms himself next to a bonfire as he guards a seized police station in the eastern Ukrainian town of Slovyansk (AP)
Ukrainian president Oleksandr Turchynov says the country is to launch a 'large-scale anti-terrorist operation' to resist Russia's aggression (AP)
Pro-Russian gunmen stand guard at a seized police station in the eastern Ukrainian town of Slovyansk. (AP)

The UN Security Council has called an emergency meeting at Russia's request to discuss the growing crisis in Ukraine.

Russia's UN mission sent a text message to reporters saying a closed meeting of the Security Council would begin tonight.

The Russian mission said it had requested the meeting.

The Security Council confirmed in an email that members have been invited to attend "informal consultations" on Ukraine.

The meeting comes as the new Ukrainian government declared it would deploy armed forces to quash an increasingly bold pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian special forces exchanged gunfire with a pro-Russia militia in the eastern city of Slovyansk on Sunday morning, with at least one security officer killed and five others wounded.

Earlier, the Ukrainian president said troops are being deployed in a "large-scale anti-terrorist operation" to resist attacks by pro-Russian forces.

Oleksandr Turchynov made the announcement to the country in a televised address.

Former president Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia after being ousted earlier this year, accused the CIA of being behind the decision.

Mr Turchynov said the Ukrainian Security Council decided to use the army because "we're not going to allow Russia to repeat the Crimean scenario in Ukraine's east".

He pledged amnesty to anyone who lays down arms by Monday morning.

Speaking hours later on Russian state television, ousted former president Mr Yanukovych claimed that CIA director John Brennan had met with Ukraine's new leadership and "in fact sanctioned the use of weapons and provoked bloodshed".

There was no independent confirmation that Mr Brennan was in Ukraine or in any way involved in the decision to send troops to the eastern part of the country, where armed pro-Russia men have seized a number of government buildings.

Mr Yanukovych was removed from office in February following months of protests in Kiev, the capital, that were ignited by his decision to back away from closer relations with the European Union and turn toward Russia.

He fled to Russia, saying he feared for his life.

Ukraine now has "one foot into a civil war," Yanukovych said. He was flanked by his former prosecutor general and head of the Security Service, the two associates most despised by the Kiev protesters.

Ukrainian special forces exchanged gunfire with a pro-Russia militia outside an eastern city on Sunday morning, with one security officer killed and five others wounded. It was the first reported gunbattle in eastern Ukraine, where armed pro-Russian men have seized a number of government buildings in recent days.

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov has described such attacks as "Russian aggression." He said in a Facebook post that special forces of up to 12,000 people will be drawn from volunteers who will be tasked with resisting attacks from pro-Russian forces in their local areas.

Russia's foreign ministry was quick to dismiss Mr Turchynov's decree as "criminal" and accused Ukrainian officials of using radical neo-Nazi forces.

The former chief of Ukraine's Security Service, Vitaliy Zakharchenko, warned of "provocations" in the coming days to "discredit Russian armed forces".

Russia has tens of thousands of troops deployed along its border with Ukraine, which has raised fears of a military incursion, especially after the takeover of the Crimean Peninsula. The Russian government has denied any plans to intervene militarily in eastern Ukraine.

Unrest has spread to several municipalities in eastern Ukraine, including the major industrial city of Donetsk, which has a large Russian-speaking population and was the support base for Mr Yanukovych. Ethnic Russians in Ukraine's east widely fear that the new pro-Western Ukrainian government will suppress them.

Pro-Russian demonstrators have demanded a referendum on autonomy and possible annexation by Russia, following the pattern set by the vote in Crimea last month.

In Sunday's gun battle, Mr Turchynov said a Security Service captain was killed and two colonels wounded outside Slovyansk, where the police station and the Security Service office were seized a day earlier.

Press Association

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