Civil War Looms Large in Ukraine

Cape Times (South Africa), April 16, 2014 | Go to article overview

Civil War Looms Large in Ukraine


BYLINE: Richard Balmforth and Thomas Grove Reuters

KIEV: Russia declared Ukraine on the brink of civil war yesterday as Kiev said an "anti-terrorist operation" against pro-Moscow separatists was under way, with troops and armoured personnel carriers seen near a flashpoint eastern town.

Twenty-four hours after an Ukrainian ultimatum expired for the separatists to lay down their arms, witnesses saw no signs yet that government forces were about to storm state buildings in the Russian-speaking east that the rebels have occupied.

Police said separatists had surrendered the police headquarters in Kramatorsk, one of about 10 towns and cities where the separatists have seized buildings. However, an official later said they occupied another building in the town.

Interim President Oleksander Turchinov insisted the operation had started in the eastern Donetsk region, although it would happen in stages and "in a considered way".

Amid the deepest East-West crisis since the Cold War, the leaders of Russia and the US have called on each other to do all in their power to avoid further bloodshed.

The stand-off has raised fears that Moscow might turn off gas supplies to Kiev, disrupting flows to the EU. Russian exporter Gazprom promised it would remain a reliable supplier to the EU, but German energy company RWE began deliveries to Ukraine yesterday - reversing the usual east-west flow in one central European pipeline.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev gave a gloomy assessment after at least two people died on Sunday when Kiev unsuccessfully tried to regain control in the town of Slaviansk, about 150km from the Russian border. …

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