Ukraine: Deadly clash threatens Geneva accord
At least four people were killed in a gunfight early today near Slaviansk, an Ukrainian city controlled by pro-Russian separatists, shaking an already fragile international accord that was designed to avert a wider conflict.
After the deaths, Russia questioned whether Ukraine's Western-backed government was complying with the agreement, brokered last week in Geneva, to end a crisis that has made Russia's ties with the West more fraught than at any time since the Cold War.
Ukraine's police and intelligence service, in turn, accused Russia of staging a fatal shooting incident today in which pro-Moscow separatists were killed in the east of the country.
The separatists said gunmen from Ukraine's Right Sector nationalist group had attacked them. The Right Sector denied any role, saying Russian special forces were behind the clash.
The deal signed in Geneva last week by the European Union, Russia, Ukraine and the United States agreed that illegal armed groups would go home. Failure of agreement could bring more bloodshed in eastern Ukraine, but may also prompt the United States early next week to impose tougher sanctions on the Kremlin - with far-reaching potential consequences for many economies and for importers of Russian energy.
So far, the pro-Russian militants have shown no signs of budging, though there was some hope of progress after Kiev said it would not move against the separatists over Easter, and international mediators headed to eastern Ukraine to try to persuade them to disarm.
But the shootings near Slaviansk - already a flashpoint for tensions between Ukraine's rival camps - are likely to make that task even harder, hardening the view of pro-Russian sections of society that they cannot trust Kiev.
Ukraine's police and intelligence service accused Russia of staging a the fatal shooting incident in which pro-Moscow separatists were killed in the east of the country.
"Armed lawbreakers and saboteurs who are terrorising the local population around Slaviansk have turned to cynical provocation," the SBU security service said in a statement, describing the incident as a "staged attack".