Ukraine accuses Russia of inciting riots

May 04, 2014 0 Comments Bloggies by Graham Penrose

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk accused Russia on Sunday of engineering clashes in Odessa that led to the deaths of more than 40 pro-Russian activists in a blazing building and pushed the country closer to civil war. Friday's clashes were the most deadly since Moscow-oriented president Viktor Yanukovich was forced to flee in February and pro-Russian militants launched uprisings in the industrial east.

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They also marked the first serious disorder outside eastern areas since Yanukovich fell, heralding possible future trouble for Kiev. "There were dozens of casualties resulting from a well-prepared and organised action against people, against Ukraine and against Odessa," Yatseniuk told representatives of social organisations. He dismissed Russian accusations that his government was provoking bloodshed in the east with an operation to restore Kiev's authority in a series of cities under rebel control. "The process of dialogue had begun, only it was drowned out by the sound of shooting from automatic rifles of Russian production," he said.

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The former Soviet republic of Ukraine is divided between a largely Russian-speaking population in the industrial east and Ukrainian-speaking west, where more pro-European Union views prevail. Moscow says Russian-speakers face threats from Ukrainian nationalist militants, an accusation Kiev denies.

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Odessa was quiet on Sunday. Flowers were laid outside the burnt-out stone building of the trade union organisation guarded by police. On social networking sites, pro-Russian activists called for a gathering on the "Kulikovo Field", a large square that was the focus of Friday's fighting, Interfax-Ukraine agency said. The deaths occurred after running clashes, involving petrol bombs and gunfire, between supporters and opponents of Moscow on the streets of Odessa, which has a mixed population of Russian and Ukrainian speakers.

AT A GLANCE: The Ukraine crisis in one info-graphic ... Russia has been conducting military exercises with some 45,000 combat troops on the eastern border of Ukraine since March 13, destabilizing the eastern part of the country and stoking fears in Kiev of an imminent invasion. The map below is based on a paper released by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in April that details which Russian units have been mobilized and where they are operating. Further analysis by The Washington Post shows where these Russian units have come from and what portion of their regionally available combat forces have shifted to the Ukrainian border.

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Meanwhile, a correspondent reported shooting on Sunday on the road between the eastern towns of Kharkiv and Izyum where Ukrainian forces took over a checkpoint. There were no signs of Ukrainian forces pushing their declared campaign to remove separatists from eastern cities including Kramatorsk, Donetsk and the rebel stronghold of Slaviansk.

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Kiev is organising national elections for May 25. However, as things stand, it would have trouble conducting the vote in many parts of the east, a circumstance that would allow Russia to declare any government emerging as bereft of legitimacy. Russia denies ambitions to seize eastern Ukraine as it has annexed the Crimean peninsula but reserves the right to send troops to defend Russian-speakers if it deems necessary.

Separatists who have declared a "People's Republic of Donetsk" are planning a referendum on secession on May 11. Yatseniuk, whose government Moscow refuses to recognise, said there would be sackings in the Odessa interior forces.

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