December 21, 2014
Kiev relaunches anti-terrorist operation after politician killed
Ukraine's acting president accused Russia of aiding "terrorists" who killed a politician from his own party, urging a crackdown in the east that could hamper international efforts to defuse the crisis.
As Vice President Joe Biden flew home from a brief visit to demonstrate solidarity with Kiev's new leaders against Moscow, Oleksander Turchinov called on security forces to relaunch an operation against pro-Russian separatists that was suspended after a deal with Moscow last week on disarming militants.
In fact, Ukraine's poorly resourced forces had previously shown little sign of taking on the gunmen who started occupying towns and public buildings two weeks ago. Turchinov's call may not lead to much more action. But it may fuel recriminations between Moscow and Kiev about who is failing to honour the deal.
Describing marks of "brutal torture" on the body of kidnapped Batkivshchyna party politician Volodymyr Rybak when found near the separatist stronghold of Slaviansk, Turchinov said in a statement: "These crimes are being carried out with the full support and indulgence of the Russian Federation.
"I call on the security agencies to relaunch and carry out effective anti-terrorist measures, with the aim of protecting Ukrainian citizens living in eastern Ukraine from terrorists."
Since Russia signed up to the four-way accord in Geneva along with Ukraine and Kiev's US and EU allies, militants who deny taking orders from Moscow and whom Russia denies it controls, have if anything tightened their grip on about a dozen buildings and towns, mostly in the industrial Donetsk region.
Mediators from Europe's security body, the OSCE, have been charged with negotiating an end to the standoff in Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine, which follows the overthrow of the Kremlin-backed president in Kiev two months ago and Russia's subsequent occupation and annexation of the Crimea peninsula.
Having met the leader of separatists in Slaviansk on Monday, the chief OSCE negotiator met those occupying the government headquarters in the regional capital Donetsk. One of them told reporters they had agreed to vacate the council chamber and two floors of the 11-storey block, though details were unclear.
In Kramatorsk, near Slaviansk, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry condemned the abduction of the local police chief and the takeover of the SBU security service building the previous day. It said Kramatorsk's police chief was being "held hostage".