UK & World News
Putin: Ukraine 'Crime' Will Have Consequences
Russian president Vladimir Putin has warned there will be "consequences" if Ukraine has used its army against pro-Russian activists.
The warning came after Ukraine's interior ministry said "up to five terrorists" had been killed during an operation to clear checkpoints in the eastern town of Slavyansk.
Separatists have taken control of several roads in eastern Ukraine, where they have also seized public buildings. The Ukrainian government regards them as terrorists.
Separatist militia members later confirmed to Russian news agency RIA Novosti that five had died.
In response to the deaths, and increased Nato activity in the region, Russian troops have begun military exercises near its border with Ukraine.
Mr Putin said Ukraine's actions in Slavyansk could amount to a "very serious crime against its own people".
He added: "It is simply a punitive measure that will, without question, have consequences."
Late on Thursday, Ukraine asked Moscow, under European OSCE security arrangements, to explain and give details of its military exercises near the border within 48 hours.
Russia responded by demanding that the United States force the Ukrainian authorities to halt its military operation in southeastern Ukraine and withdraw the armed forces.
Meanwhile, UN chief Ban Ki-moon warned the crisis threatened to "spin out of control" and urged all sides to "refrain from violence."
Ukraine re-launched a campaign against pro-Russia insurgents occupying government buildings on Tuesday.
Troops liberated a town hall in eastern Mariupol without any casualties, according to interior minister Arsen Avakov.
He also claimed 70 people led by Russian soldiers raided a Ukrainian base at Artemivsk, wounding one soldier.
It followed the death of a local politician from a pro-Ukraine party whose body was found near Slavyansk, days after he was alleged to have been abducted.
Other abductions are also alleged to have carried out by pro-Russian separatists, including of journalists, but one of them, Simon Ostrovsky, was released on Thursday evening.
After his release, the correspondent for US website Vice News told AFP he had been beaten, blindfolded and had his hands tied at first, before being well treated later.
Earlier, US President Barack Obama accused the Kremlin of not honouring an agreement aimed at defusing the Ukraine crisis.
The Geneva accord between Russia, Ukraine, the US and EU compelled armed groups to surrender weapons and leave official buildings.
Mr Obama said further sanctions were "teed up" and ready to go.
The US has sent hundreds of troops to Poland and the Baltic states, while on Thursday night, France sent four warplanes to Poland.
The West has also issued asset freezes and visa bans targeting Russian officials.
Mr Putin admitted sanctions were hurting Russia but claimed the West would also suffer.
Meanwhile, Russia's Gazprombank, the country's third largest bank, said it had repatriated nearly $7bn (£4.1bn) from abroad to shield itself from further sanctions Russian firms may face in the future.
The IMF said it would decide on April 30 whether to grant a $14bn (£8.3bn) bailout to help the country stay afloat.