Ukraine crisis: President Turchynov accuses Kremlin of creating uprising in east to justify new invasion as pro-Russian protesters declare 'People's Republic' in Donetsk

Ten of thousands of troops mass on border after protesters storm state buildings in three cities

Brussels

Ukraine’s President on Monday accused Moscow of trying to tear his country apart after separatist protesters stormed buildings and declared an independent republic in an eastern city not far from the border where tens of thousands of Russian troops are massing.

Fearing the Kremlin may be attempting to create a pretext for a military incursion, President Oleksandr Turchynov announced plans to send his own reinforcements to the border. On Monday night, a White House spokesman also suggested that Moscow could be behind the latest unrest, and warned Russia against “overtly or covertly” stoking tensions in eastern Ukraine.

Russia immediately denied any links to the latest instability in its neighbour, with the foreign ministry issuing a statement saying it could not be blamed for “all the troubles of today’s Ukraine”. Pro-Russian protesters overran state buildings in three eastern Ukrainian cities at the weekend, with a faction in Donetsk on Monday declaring a “People’s Republic” and calling for a referendum on independence in the city about 50 miles from the Russian border.

Echoes of the events of late February in Crimea – when militia loyal to Moscow took over key buildings in the peninsula after protesters ousted the pro-Russian president – have caused alarm in Kiev. Within days, Russian forces were on the ground in the peninsular, and a hasty referendum saw the Black Sea region annexed by Moscow last month.

 

President Turchynov claimed in a televised statement on Monday that events in Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kharkiv were orchestrated by Russia in an attempt to “play the Crimean scenario” and justify an invasion of Ukraine’s industrial heartland, where many ethnic Russians live. Donetsk and other eastern cities also have sizeable ethnic Ukrainian communities and support for Russia is not nearly as widespread as across Crimea. But leaders in Moscow have not ruled out military intervention if ethnic Russians are under threat, heightening suspicions in Kiev.

“Its aim is to destabilise the situation in the country, overthrow the Ukrainian authorities, sabotage the (25 May presidential) election and tear apart our country,” Mr Turchynov said. As well as beefing up border protection, he called for “ anti-terrorist measures against those who took up arms”.

While protesters in Kharkiv have been dispersed, the dozens occupying the regional parliament and state security service building in Donetsk barricaded themselves in with razor wire and tyres. Police said separatists in the security building in Luhansk had stolen weapons.

Also causing concern last night was the build-up of Russian forces close to its border with the former Soviet state. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), of which Russia is a member, held an emergency meeting in Vienna yesterday. “We have strong evidence that there are tens of thousands of forces on the border and again not in their normal peacetime positions or garrisons,” said Daniel Baer, the US ambassador to the OSCE “What the Russian Federation should be doing is taking steps to de-escalate the crisis.”

The European Union and Washington have already imposed sanctions on dozens of Russian officials in retaliation for the annexation of Crimea. US President Barack Obama and David Cameron have made clear that any further Russian military incursions into eastern Ukraine would trigger much broader economic sanctions.

There were fears Donetsk could be following in the footsteps of Crimea, already annexed by the Russian federation There were fears Donetsk could be following in the footsteps of Crimea, already annexed by the Russian federation
The White House spokesman, Jay Carney, on Monday reiterated those threats and said there was “strong evidence” that some demonstrators in the eastern cities “were paid and were not local residents”. He did not directly accuse Russia of paying them, but  said: “If Russia moves into eastern Ukraine either overtly or covertly this would be a very serious escalation.”

An EU official said yesterday that they were still working on a package of possible sanctions if the situation were to deteriorate. It is also looking into how any sanctions might affect member states’ economies. Moscow has used Europe’s reliance on its gas as a political tool in the past. The state-owned energy firm, Gazprom, gave Ukraine a deadline of last night to pay off some of the $2.2bn (£1.3bn) it owes the company. While it did not specify the consequences of non-payment, EU nations are scrambling to come up with alternative supply routes in case Russia turns off the taps.

It was Kiev’s attempt last year to move closer to the EU and out of Russia’s shadow which sparked the greatest crisis in relations between Russia and the West since the Cold War.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Extras
indybest
News
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
education
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform