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
Life and Style
love + sex
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
News
people
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
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: Junior IT Support Technician

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Junior IT Support Technician ...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service Engineer - Doors / Windows

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This specialist designer and ma...

Recruitment Genius: Systems Developer

£26000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A market leading provider of tu...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - OTE £30,000+

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn