UK & World News

  • 24 April 2014, 11:01

'Ukraine A Pawn In US Game Against Russia'

Russia has accused the West of instigating a "revolution" in Ukraine as part of a "geopolitical game" against Moscow.

Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov claimed the US and EU were behind the uprising that ousted Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Kremlin president of Ukraine, in February.

"In Ukraine, the United States and the European Union tried to stage - let's call things what they are - another 'colour revolution', an operation to unconstitutionally change regime," the Interfax news agency quoted Mr Lavrov as saying.

"Our Western partners, first and foremost the United States, tried to behave as winners in the Cold War and pretend that one can ignore Russia in European affairs and undertake activities that directly damage Russian security interests."

Mr Lavrov added that Ukraine was being used as a "pawn in geopolitical game" against Russia.

He also said the West had tried to "besmirch the Olympic Games in Sochi through every means possible" as part of "anti-Russian propaganda".

Meanwhile, Russia's Gazprom has sent an $11.4bn (£6.7bn) gas bill to Ukraine energy firm Naftogaz - five times the original amount.

It comes as US President Barack Obama warns Moscow could face "consequences" after accusing the Kremlin of not honouring an international agreement aimed at defusing the Ukraine crisis.

The Geneva accord between Russia, Ukraine, the US and EU called for an end to violence in eastern Ukraine and compelled armed groups to surrender weapons and leave official buildings.

Mr Obama has said further sanctions were "teed up" in case Russia continued to disregard the spirit of the agreement.

"So far at least we have seen them not abide by the spirit or the letter of the agreement in Geneva," said Mr Obama.               

"Instead we continue to see malicious, armed men taking over buildings, harassing folks who are disagreeing with them, destabilising the region, and we haven't seen Russia step out and discourage it.

"On the other side you have seen the government in Kiev taking very concrete steps, introducing amnesty law, offering the whole range of reforms with respect to the constitution, that are consistent with what we discussed in Geneva."

The West has already issued asset freezes and visa bans targeting Russian officials in response to Moscow's annexation of Crimea.

The US is deploying 600 troops to boost Nato's defences in states bordering Ukraine, but speaking in Japan at the start of an Asian tour, Mr Obama again ruled out a military intervention in Ukraine by Western forces.

Ukraine announced on Wednesday that it was re-launching a campaign against pro-Russia insurgents occupying government buildings.

Ukraine's interior minister Arsen Avakov used Facebook to report on Thursday that the country's military had liberated a town hall in eastern Mariupol without any casualties.

Mr Avakov also claimed 70 people led by Russian soldiers raided a Ukrainian base at Artemivsk, wounding one soldier.

Russia reacted to Ukraine's campaign against insurgents by warning there would be a response if its interests in the country were attacked.

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