Ukraine crisis: Slavyansk shooting threatens fraught Easter truce

Moscow and Kiev trade accusations over the identity of the attackers

Russia and Ukraine have descended into a bitter blame game after a gunfire battle killed at least one person and left three wounded in the eastern Ukraine town of Slavyansk on Sunday.

The incident comes just hours after Kiev declared a truce coinciding with the Easter holidays in an effort to de-escalate tensions in the volatile region where pro-Russian groups have seized government buildings calling for the interim government to resign.

The identity of the attackers remains unclear with both sides trading accusations and blaming each other for the deadly clash.

In a statement, Russia's foreign ministry blamed Ukraine's Right Sector, a far-right paramilitary group which played a prominent role in the ousting of former president Viktor Yanukovych.

"Russia is indignant about this provocation by gunmen, which testifies to the lack of will on the part of the Kiev authorities to rein in and disarm nationalists and extremists," the statement said.

The Right Sector denied being involved in the Slavyansk shooting and blamed Russian special forces for the attack.

"It is a blasphemous provocation from Russia, blasphemous because it took place on a holy night for Christians, on Easter night. This was clearly carried out by Russian special forces," Artem Skoropadsky, a spokesman for the Right Sector, told Reuters.

Ukraine's intelligence service also accused Russia of staging the shooting and "terrorising the local population" as part of a "cynical provocation" "supported and armed by officers of Russia's GRU" military intelligence.

The country's interior ministry said one person was killed in the attack and three were wounded. It said none of its forces had mounted an operation overnight in the area, which it described as "the most dangerous place in Ukraine, in view of the presence in the town of foreign saboteurs and illegal armed groups".

It also raised suspicion about the speed in which "camera crews from Russian TV stations appeared at the scene of the shooting, and the obviously staged subject matter of news reports in the Russian media".

Pro-Russian separatists said the battle broke out at around 2am after four vehicles approached their checkpoint and opened fire.

Kiev fears Russian forces could enter the country and seize more Ukrainian territory under the pretext of maintaining peace in the region.

 

Meanwhile, Ukraine's interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk lashed out at the Kremlin accusing President Vladimir Putin of trying to "restore the Soviet Union" in an interview with NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday.

"President Putin has a dream to restore the Soviet Union," said Yatsenyuk. "And every day, he goes further and further. And God knows where is the final destination."

The Russian leader famously described the collapse of the USSR in 1991 as the "greatest geopolitical catastrophe" of the 20th century.

Today, Mr Yatsenyuk warned that restoring the Soviet Union would be the "biggest disaster of this century".

His comments come after a senior mediator with the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) set off for eastern Ukraine to try to persuade pro-Russian groups to lay down their arms on Saturday.

Separatists have remained in the buildings in defiance to an agreement reached between the interim government in Ukraine, Russia, the United States and the European Union.

Washington has threatened further sanctions on Russia if it does not work to use its perceived influence over the separatists to get them to  leave the buildings.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links