Deadly fighting in eastern Ukraine must end “this week,” Ukraine’s new President Petro Poroshenko has pledged. He was speaking at talks involving an envoy from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and Russia’s ambassador to Ukraine. Meanwhile, fighting has continued in and around the rebel-held city of Sloviasnk.
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Ukraine says it will launch an investigation into a fatal shooting in the east of the country which has raised tension with Russia further. At least three people died in the raid on a checkpoint manned by pro-Russian separatists near the town of Sloviansk. Russia expressed “outrage” at the shooting and said Ukraine’s Right Sector nationalists were to blame. The incident came as pro-Russian groups continued to occupy government buildings defying a deal to leave. The deputy secretary of Ukraine’s national security council, Viktoriya Siumar, told the BBC that it was too early to tell who was responsible for the attack. Criminal groups could have been behind the incident, she said, adding that “the level of criminality in eastern Ukraine has increased substantially recently.”
Ms. Siumar said that Kiev was “concerned” about the fact that Russia had already reached its own conclusions. Russian television showed an interview with a man, allegedly captured after the attack, who said he was a Right Sector member. However, a spokesman for the group denied that the man was a member. “Right Sector was not there, and whatever happened there was an obvious provocation from the Russian secret services,” Artyom Skoropadskiy said. The Right Sector mocked the discovery of a business card found in a burned out car at the site and said to belong to its leader Dmytro Yarosh. Mr. Skoropadskiy said this was “propaganda worse than that of Nazi Germany,” adding: “As if the militants of Pravy Sektor carry Yarosh’s business cards with them!”
The “anti-terrorist” campaign, ordered by interim President Oleksander Turchynov is finally underway. He told the Ukrainian parliament on Tuesday that operations began in the eastern Donestk region. According to Turchynov, the Russian Federation wants Ukraine to be on fire. Voice of America quoted Turchynov, who spoke to the parliament early on Tuesday. “Plans of the Russian Federation were and remain brutal. They want not only Donbas [the Donetsk region] to be on fire. They want the whole south and east of Ukraine to be on fire – from Kharkiv region to Odessa region,” Turchynov said at the parliament session in Kyiv.
The operations would be executed in phases. “But it will be carried out stage by stage, responsibly and cautiously. The aim of these actions – I underline it one more time – is to protect the citizens of Ukraine, to stop terror, and to stop criminality, stop attempts to tear Ukraine to pieces,” he added. President Turchynov confirmed the offense was finally underway. The plan was announced and launched on Sunday but no Ukrainian soldiers nor SBU officers were seen conducting operations.
A Reuters correspondent in Sloviasnk reported that there was no shot fired or explosions so far on Tuesday. Around twelve Cossacks were seen proudly standing guard at the mayor’s office and approximately the same amount of civilians were seen establishing more defensive positions using tires and wooden crates outside the occupied local police headquarters. Western leaders have arraigned Moscow of being the instigator of the recent pro-Russian uprising in eastern Ukraine, which was quickly dismissed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Moscow has also denied the allegation of Russian Special Service agents’ were engaged in the protests stating it was “speculations based on unreliable information.”
The UN Security Council will hold an emergency closed session on Ukraine. Upon Russia’s request, the Council will discuss the escalating crisis.
The Sloviansk shootout that killed 1 Ukrainian servicemen, later identified as an SBU officer, created more tension between the Ukrainian authorities and the Pro-Russian insurgents, who are believed by many to be Russian special operation forces (SOF) operators from Spetsnaz and GRU teams. Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, intentions are to expose Kyiv’s plans to mobilize the Ukrainian army to put an end to the rebellion of the pro-Russian militants in eastern Ukraine. Lavrov tweeted earlier today that Ukrainian authorities must “stop war against their people.”
In a television interview earlier today, Interim President Oleksander Turchinov stated that he ordered a “full-scale anti-terrorist operation” engaging the army against the pro-Russian militants. “The blood of Ukrainian heroes has been shed in a war which the Russian Federation is waging against Ukraine,” he said. “We will not allow Russia to repeat the Crimean scenario in the eastern regions of the country,” he added.
A military standoff between Russian SOF soldiers, commonly called “pro-Russian insurgents” and Ukraine’s military led to the first death in Sloviansk, Ukraine.
One man was killed and several others were wounded in a shootout near a roadside checkpoint, under Ukrainian military control. The Russians approached the checkpoint in a civilian car and started shooting at Ukrainian soldiers. According to a local witness, who hid his identity, a man wearing a black uniform, who was killed, was later identified as an SBU officer. “One killed and two wounded,” he explained. Arsen Avakov, Ukraine’s police chief, confirmed the SBU officer’s death and added five people were injured. As reported by Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, there are dead and wounded on both sides while Reuters reported that one man on the Russian side has been killed in action.
The death of the SBU officer could justify the movement of Ukrainian soldiers towards Sloviansk. In fact, Interim President Oleksander Tuchinov said Ukraine is on the verge of launching a full-scale anti-terrorist operation against pro-Russian insurgents, increasing the risk of a military confrontation with Moscow. Free Ukraine, @Ukrainolution, who monitors the situation closely, agreed to the fact that the military movement could be due to the SBU officer’s death.