Ukraine: UN emergency summit held as unrest spreads

Pro-Russian gunmen inspect the scene after a firefight outside the town of Slovyansk. Picture: AP
Pro-Russian gunmen inspect the scene after a firefight outside the town of Slovyansk. Picture: AP
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THE UN Security Council held an emergency summit last night to discuss the growing crisis in Ukraine.

A closed meeting was called at the request of Russia’s UN mission and the President of the Security Council confirmed members had been invited to attend “informal consultations” on the deepening crisis.

The meeting comes as the new Ukrainian government declared it would deploy armed forces to quash an increasingly bold pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian special forces exchanged gunfire with a pro-Russia militia in the east of Ukraine yesterday, leaving a security officer dead and five others wounded.

The fighting in Slovyansk was the first reported gun battle in eastern Ukraine, where armed pro-Russia men have seized a number of government buildings in recent days.

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said in a Facebook post that a security service officer was killed in the city, where the police station and the Security Service office were seized a day earlier by camouflaged armed men.

A reporter found a bullet-ridden car at the side of the road and a pool of blood on the passenger seat where the battle was thought to have taken place.

Vladimir Kolodchenko, a local politician who witnessed the attack, said a car with four gunmen pulled up on the road in a wooded area outside Slovyansk and the gunmen opened fire on Ukrainian soldiers.

The killing comes as Ukraine’s president Oleksandr Turchynov said the country is to launch a “large-scale anti-terrorist operation” to resist Russia’s aggression. Mr Turchynov said in a live televised address that authorities in Kiev will not allow a “repetition of the Crimean scenario”.

Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula last month after local residents voted overwhelmingly to secede from Ukraine and join Russia in a hastily called referendum. Unrest has spread to eastern Ukraine, including the city of Donetsk, which has a large Russian-speaking population.

Donetsk was also the support base for Viktor Yanukovich, the Ukrainian president ousted in February following months of protests in Kiev ignited by his decision to back away from closer relations with the European Union and turn toward Russia.

Ethnic Russians in Ukraine’s east widely fear that the new pro-Western Ukrainian government will suppress them.

Mr Avakov said separatists who had seized buildings in Slovyansk had opened fire on Ukrainian special forces sent to the city yesterday. A reporter saw no signs of any shots fired at the police station, which was surrounded by barricades.

Unlike on Saturday, the men patrolling the barricades were largely unarmed. One of the guards, who asked not to be identified, denied reports of fighting at the police station.

In a phone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, US Secretary of State John Kerry “expressed strong concern” that the attacks “were orchestrated and synchronised, similar to previous attacks in eastern Ukraine and Crimea”.

Mr Kerry “made clear that if Russia didn’t take steps to de-escalate in eastern Ukraine and move its troops back from Ukraine’s border, there would be additional consequences”, the State Department said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry denied Mr Kerry’s claims, while Mr Lavrov blamed the crisis in Ukraine on the failure of the Ukrainian government “to take into account the legitimate needs and interests of the Russian and Russian-speaking population”.


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