UK & World News

  • 16 March 2014, 11:23

Ukraine Accuses Russia Of 'Military Invasion'

Ukrainian authorities have accused Russia of carrying out a "military invasion" after reportedly deploying troops in an area bordering Crimea.

It is claimed 120 soldiers, supported by helicopters and armoured personnel carriers, have landed near the village of Strelkovoye on Arbatskaya Strelka, and seized a gas distribution station.

The move is being seen as significant as the split of land, is outside the troubled southern region of Crimea, and signals an extension of Moscow's military intervention in Ukraine.

It had initially been reported Ukrainian forces had repelled an attempt by Russian forces to enter the area, which is about 70 miles long and runs parallel to the east of Crimea.

The Ukrainian foreign ministry is demanding the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops.

It said in a statement: "Ukraine reserves the right to use all necessary measures to stop the military invasion by Russia."

Washington's UN representative has branded any new Russian troop movement in south Ukraine an "outrageous escalation".

Tensions are running high as polls opened for the controversial referendum on whether Crimea should break away from Ukraine.

There were reports of advanced Russian surface-to-air missiles being mobilised in the east of the Crimean peninsula.

Two people were shot dead in clashes between pro-Kiev and pro-Moscow activists in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv yesterday.

Ukraine's interim interior minister said the two men, aged 20 and 31, were killed and several others wounded during the late-night gun battle.

Arsen Avakov claimed around 30 people "from both sides" were arrested, and he accused Russian activists of provoking the clashes.

A pro-Russian rally in Donetsk also turned violent with demonstrators storming the offices of the national security service, taking down the Ukrainian flag, and raising the Russian one.

Ukraine has accused "Kremlin agents" of stoking violence in Russian-speaking cities and urged people not to be goaded into fighting back because clashes could be used by Moscow as a precursor for further incursions.

The unrest has escalated in the Russian-speaking east of the country since Moscow's military invention in Ukraine's Crimean peninsula following the ousting of Kremlin ally, President Viktor Yanukovych last month.

The referendum on Crimea joining the Russian Federation further ratcheted up the tensions.

Russia has vetoed a Western-backed resolution at the UN condemning the Crimea referendum but China abstained, isolating Moscow further on the crisis.

The UK's ambassador to the UN Mark Lyall Grant responded by accusing Russia of "military adventurism".

He said: "This resolution was designed to prevent further escalation of the crisis in Ukraine.

"It was about sending a clear signal that holding a referendum in Crimea would take us further away from a diplomatic solution.

"The resounding message from today's vote is that Russia stands isolated in this Council, and in the international community."

Moscow justified last week's military occupation of Crimea by saying it wished to protect ethnic Russians and has not ruled out moving its troops further afield to protect its compatriots.

America and the European Union have warned Russia of sanctions, including asset freezes and travel bans unless the vote is called off.

Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has said such measures would be a "counter-productive instrument".

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