UK & World News

  • 29 April 2014, 1:58

Ukraine Shooting As Fresh Sanctions Imposed

The pro-Russian mayor of Ukraine's second biggest city, Kharkiv, has been shot and injured in an attack set to further inflame tensions as the West ramps up sanctions on Moscow.

Gennady Kernes, 54, is in a serious condition in hospital after being hit while riding his bicycle on a route he regularly takes, according to a local government spokesman.

His bodyguards following in a car were not close enough to intervene, she said.

He is accused by the government in Kiev of promoting separatism by demanding independence when pro-Russian protesters seized administrative buildings.

They were ousted this month by Ukrainian forces, making Kharkiv the only major eastern city to have been taken taken back from the armed protesters, demanding a referendum to break away.

Theshooting is likely to heighten the continuing Cold War-style stand-off between Western powers and Russia.

The US and European Union agreed to impose further sanctions against Russia over what they claim to be Moscow's failure to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine, after a deal was reached in Geneva aimed at defusing tensions.

EU governments are to impose asset freezes and visa bans on 15 more people.

And the US said sanctions will be extended to seven Russian government officials and 17 companies linked to President Vladimir Putin.

A White House statement said: "Russia's involvement in the recent violence in eastern Ukraine is indisputable."

One of those people on the US sanctions list is Igor Sechin, head of Russia's major oil company Rosneft and a close ally of Mr Putin.

America has also imposed restrictions on export licences for hi-tech equipment.

But Mr Putin has said Russia would be able to replace with its own products any defence industry imports lost through sanctions.

Foreign Secretary William Hague has told Sky News that plans are also being made for wider trade sanctions, saying the damage to the British economy would be a "price worth paying".

Pro-Russian separatists continue to hold seven European monitors in the the eastern Ukraine city of Sloviansk.

And gunmen are still occupying government buildings in a dozen cities across the east of the country, and the regional TV and radio headquarters in Donetsk have been taken.

Meanwhile, Royal Air Force jets have been deployed to defend Baltic air space as part of Nato's response to the Ukraine crisis. France is also sending four aircraft.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said four Typhoon fighters had now been sent to the region.

Mr Hammond said: "Britain must continue to play its part in standing up to Russia's actions, pressing for Russia to change course, and helping the Ukrainian people in their hour of need."

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