Ukraine crisis: Country nearing 'point of no return', warns UN official

Ivan Simonovic said there is a 'window of opportunity' that must be used if the crisis is to be resolved

Ukraine is on the brink of chaos, a senior UN official has warned.

UN Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic told the BBC that Ukraine is approaching “the point of no return”, as there continues to be no resolution to the crisis.

Mr Simonovic said that tensions between government forces and pro-separatists had worrying echoes of the 1990s war in Croatia, where he was born.

Over the weekend the Russian foreign ministry issued a statement condemning what it described as a sharp escalation of violence in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian militants have declared “people's republics” in Donetsk and Luhansk, following an unofficial referendum in favour of independence.

The separatists have refused to participate in EU-brokered talks being held in Kharkiv in a bid to resolve the crisis, saying they are willing to discuss only the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops and the recognition of the independence of the regions.

On Saturday, a man named Alexander Borodai was appointed as prime minister for the so-called People’s Republic of Donetsk, the BBC reported.

 

Mr Simonovic told the broadcaster: “What I'm really afraid is that country is approaching to a point of no return if there is no adequate and urgent action taken.”

The UN says it has documented innumerable episodes of abduction, torture and murder in the south and east of the country.

And Mr Simonovic said that although these incidents were committed by both sides in the conflict, the majority were by the separatists,

An election for the new Ukrainian president is scheduled for 25 May, following the ousting of Russia-backed President Viktor Yanukovych in February, after months of protests in Kiev.

Mr Simonovic added that although he hoped the election would go ahead it would be “extremely difficult”.

“I firmly believe that there is a window of opportunity that should be used,” he said.

On Saturday lawmakers and officials from eastern Ukraine poured criticism on the fledging central government, accusing it of ignoring legitimate grievances of the regions which have been overrun by separatists.

But acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk called on the eastern leaders to resist the armed men and support the government's efforts to devolve powers to the regions.

No representatives of the separatists from Donetsk and Luhansk were present at the talks.

Oleksandr Bandurka, a Communist party lawmaker and police general from central Ukraine, said that these negotiations make no sense because “we're not talking to those who oppose us. We cannot ignore them”.

Ukraine's first president, Leonid Kravchuk, who is chairing the talks, angrily reacted that “no one in the world talks to killers and terrorists. Putin doesn't talk to terrorists”.

Russia has pushed for the federalization of Ukraine, since that would allow Moscow to retain influence over areas in Ukraine dominated by Russian-speakers. Many in eastern Ukraine and in the capital favour closer ties to Europe and fear being pulled back into Moscow's orbit.

Volodymyr Groisman, acting prime minister in charge of the reforms to decentralize the government, countered the claims of some eastern lawmakers that only federalization will bring peace to Ukraine.

“You were saying the unitary system of government is no longer effective?” Groisman said.

“An inefficient government and dirty politics — this is what led to the fact that so many people in our country are poor.”

Attempting to end the talks on a conciliatory note, Yatsenyuk quoted Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko and told the leaders from eastern Ukraine: “We are ready to embrace you and hope that you are too.”

US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki rejected the “illegal actions” of pro-Russian militants. But she said the US supports the efforts by “elected and legitimate representatives” meeting in Kharkiv “to discuss constitutional and nonviolent approaches to resolving their differences”.

“Any decisions made about Ukraine must be taken by those with lawful authority, representing the citizens of Ukraine as a whole, and not under threat of foreign military intervention,” she said.

The next round of talks is expected to be held in the central city of Cherkasy on Wednesday.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

Read more: Ukraine crisis in space
Ukraine's richest man steps in
Kidnappings abound as Donbass falls further into anarchy
 
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker