UK & World News

  • 16 April 2014, 8:11

Shots Fired As Troops Land At Ukraine Airport

Airborne troops have seized back a key Ukrainian air base, as Kiev launched an "anti-terrorist operation" against pro-Russian separatists.

Shots rang out from inside the facility in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, after Ukrainian troops disembarked from two military helicopters.

Ukraine's Interim President Oleksandr Turchynov says troops have taken control of the facility.

Reuters reported that the troops withdrew into barracks at the airport following a "scuffle" with several hundred pro-Russian protesters.

Russian news reports initially said up to 11 people were killed in clashes at the base, but Ukraine's defence ministry says none of its troops were killed or injured.

The Ukrainian state security service announced that a similar operation was launched in the town of Slavyansk, some 12 miles away.

The two cities are among 10 locations in the Russian-speaking east where separatist rebellions have broken out.

Video footage emerged on Tuesday of a group of separatists stopping a Ukrainian tank and questioning its crew near the village of Rodinskoye.

Mr Turchynov has accused Russia of harbouring "brutal plans" to destabilise the region by backing separatists and refusing to force them to stand down.

"The plans of the Russian Federation were and remain brutal," he said.

"They want not only for Donbass (Donetsk region), but for the whole south and east of Ukraine to be engulfed by fire."

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Ukraine was on the verge of civil war.

"I will be brief: Ukraine is on the brink of civil war, it's frightening," he said.

The White House is "seriously considering" new sanctions against Russia and says it supports Ukrainian efforts to restore law and order in the country's east.

"The Ukrainian government has the responsibility to provide law and order and these provocations in eastern Ukraine are creating a situation in which the government has to respond," spokesman Jay Carney said.

He added that Washington continues to plan to participate in talks scheduled for Thursday between the Russian and Ukrainian governments, the US and the European Union.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has welcomed the talks, but said any Ukrainian military action in the east could jeopardise the negotiations.

"You can't send in tanks and at the same time hold talks, and the use of force would sabotage the opportunity offered by the four-party negotiations in Geneva," he said.

But British Foreign Secretary William Hague warned Russia it risked making a "grave miscalculation" if it continued its campaign of destabilisation against Ukraine.

Speaking at a keynote speech in London, he said: "In recent days Russia has deliberately pushed Ukraine to the brink, and created a still greater risk of violent confrontation.

"We call on Russia to stop these actions and to condemn the lawless acts in eastern Ukraine."

Meanwhile, two pro-Russian politicians have been attacked by pro-Western activists as tensions remain high.

Oleh Tsaryov, a candidate in the presidential elections on May 25, was pelted with eggs and beaten as he left a TV studio in Kiev on Tuesday.

Mikhaylo Dobkin, another Russia-leaning politician, was sprayed with a green disinfectant on Monday night.

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