Russia has warned of a Ukrainian civil war that if it chooses to use its military or foreign mercenaries to quell the violence and storming of government buildings by Russian separatists, it will lead to civil war. Over the weekend, separatists stormed a building and declared its independence, even calling for a referendum on May 11 to vote on secession to Russia. Three cities Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv in Eastern Ukraine have been the target of the takeovers.
Russia warned Tuesday that any use of force in Ukraine’s eastern region could lead to civil war, as Kiev seeks to regain control after pro-Moscow uprisings in three cities.
Pro-Russian protesters seized government buildings in the three cities of Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv on Sunday. Rebels occupying Donetsk’s regional government building Monday declared a “people’s republic” and called for a referendum on secession from Ukraine to be held by May 11.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said reports that the protesters are facing a crackdown by Ukrainian authorities are of particular concern.
“We are calling for the immediate cessation of any military preparations, which could lead to civil war,” it said in a statement on its official website.
The ministry alleged that what it called “American experts from the private military organization Greystone,” disguised as soldiers, as well as militants from the Ukrainian far-right group Right Sector, had joined Ukrainian forces preparing for the crackdown in the country’s east.
Late Monday, Ukrainian special forces cleared armed protesters from the headquarters of Ukrainian security services in Donetsk, acting President Oleksandr Turchynov’s office announced.
But Ukraine’s interim Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Yarema was quoted by Russian state-run news agency ITAR-Tass as saying Tuesday that the authorities are not going to storm the city’s regional administration building. Yarema said the decision was made after talks with representatives of the protesters in the building.
A CNN team on the ground said that pro-Russian protesters appear still to be in control of the building and that there is no sign of special forces nearby.