Ukraine on attack after two ‘tortured to death’

People carry coffins containing the bodies of men killed in a gunfight on Sunday. Picture: Reuters
People carry coffins containing the bodies of men killed in a gunfight on Sunday. Picture: Reuters
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TENSIONS in Ukraine continued to rise last night after the acting president relaunched military operations in the east of the country after two men, one a local politician, were found ­allegedly tortured to death.

Oleksandr Turchynov said the politician, named as Vladimir Rybak, was found near the rebel-held town of Sloviansk.

Mr Turchynov said: “The terrorists who effectively took the whole Donetsk region hostage have now gone too far.”

The news came as US vice-president Joe Biden yesterday warned Russia “it’s time to stop talking and start acting” to reduce tension in Ukraine.

Announcing the decision to resume the military operation against pro-Russian militants, Mr Turchynov said in a statement: “I call on the security bodies to resume and carry out successful anti-terrorist measures aimed at defending Ukrainian citizens living in the east of Ukraine against terrorists.”

Mr Rybak was said to be a councillor for the Fatherland party in the town of Horlivka, near Slovyansk. The other man has not been officially identified.

“These crimes are being committed with the full support and connivance of the Russian Federation,” Mr Turchynov said.

The military operation to end the occupation of buildings began on 16 April but was suspended over the Easter period.

The announcement came against a backdrop of an ongoing international attempt to calm tensions in the region.

Speaking yesterday in Kiev during a joint news conference with interim Ukrainian prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Mr Biden warned Russia that further “provocative behaviour” would lead to “greater isolation” and urged Moscow to end its ­alleged support for pro-Russian militants in eastern Ukraine.

He called on Moscow to encourage pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine to vacate government buildings and checkpoints, accept amnesty and “address their grievances politically”. Mr Biden said Russia needed to act “without delay”.

Mr Yatsenyuk spoke more harshly, saying: “No country should be able to behave like an armed bandit… Russia should stick to its international commitments and obligations. They should not behave as gangsters.”

Meanwhile, the funerals took place for three men shot on Sunday during a raid on a checkpoint manned by pro-Russian separatists near the town of ­Slovyansk in eastern Ukraine.

Local separatists said the attack was carried out by ultra-­nationalist Right Sector militants, but Kiev called it a “provocation” staged by Russian special forces.

The US has warned it will impose further economic sanctions on Russian officials if Moscow fails to follow through on the provisions in last week’s accord.

Russia has rejected charges it was behind the troubles in eastern Ukraine and also denied claims it has failed to live up to the Geneva agreement.

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said: “Before putting forth ultimatums to us … we would urgently call on our American partners to fully recognise responsibility for those whom they brought to power and whom they are trying to shield, closing their eyes to the outrages created by this regime.”

Meanwhile, Mr Biden also announced plans for the US to provide an additional $50 million (£30m) to help Ukraine’s beleaguered government with political and economic reforms, including £11m to help conduct the 25 May presidential election.

It also will help pay for expert teams from US government agencies to help Ukraine reduce its reliance on energy supplies from Russia.

The White House also announced $8m of funds for military assistance for the Ukrainian armed forces, including bomb-disposal equipment, communications gear and vehicles.

Mr Biden also visited St Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery, the site of huge demonstrations against then-president Viktor Yanukovych.

“These heroes remind us of the true cost of a better future and the nobility of those who reach for it,” Mr Biden said.