(Transcript from World News Radio)
Western countries are once again blaming Russia as the United Nations Security Council holds talks on the deteriorating situation in Ukraine.
Rebels have torn down Ukrainian flags at administration buildings in eastern Ukraine and now occupy dozens of the country’s security and government-owned buildings.
However, the Russian ambassador insists his country has no aggressive intensions against its neighbour.
Abby Dinham reports.
Thousands of pro-Russian protesters have stormed key buildings in eastern Ukraine in the past 48 hours, escalating the crisis.
It has prompted yet another round of discussion at the United Nations Security Council.
Armed militants, believed to be pro-Russian, attacked the regional police headquarters in the eastern city of Lugansk after earlier seizing the regional prosecutor’s office.
More than a dozen towns and cities in the east have now fallen to the rebels, who are calling for either independence or outright accession to Russia.
Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations, Mark Lyall Grant, says Russia is responsible for the crisis.
“The permanent representative of the Russian Federation has asserted that Russia has a legal basis to intervene in Ukraine, in accordance with the right of self-defense under Article 51 of the UN charter. This is a claim that takes Russia’s distortion of international law to a new level. There is no justification or legal basis whatsoever, for invoking Article 51. Russian nationals are not under threat in Ukraine.”
The latest unrest followed terrifying scenes earlier in the week in nearby Donetsk.
Militants armed with baseball bats, knives and fireworks attacked a pro-Ukrainian demonstration, wounding several in what the United States called pure and simple terrorism.
US ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power says the Russians have orchestrated the crisis as a pretext for invasion.
“Tragically, what we have seen from Russia since April 17th is exactly what we saw from Russia prior to April 17th: more attempts to stir up trouble, more efforts to undermine the government of Ukraine, and statement after statement that are at odds with the facts. What we have not seen is a single positive step by Russia to fulfil its Geneva commitments.”
As the situation descends further into chaos, Russia continues to trade accusations with the West.
Russia says the United States is resorting to what it calls Iron Curtain policies, and it has minimised any potential effect from further U-S and European Union sanctions.
But Ukraine’s UN ambassador, Yuriy Sergeyev, says the answer to resolving the crisis is simple.
He says Russia must abide by the agreements made in Geneva earlier this month and allow peaceful elections in Ukraine.
“First, Russia should withdraw its army from Ukrainian borders. Second, it should make a high-level statement calling on its protege to free all hostages, to disarm and to vacate all state administrative premises. Also, it has to condemn all terror and violence committed by those groups and disassociate itself from such actitivies. Third, it should stop wartime rhetoric and start acting in a constructive manner.”
But Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin says the agreements made in Geneva first require action from Ukraine.
Mr Churkin says the interim Ukrainian government — which Russia has not recognised — has not moved to disarm what he calls illegal groups.
He points especially to the nationalist Right Sector, credited with toppling pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych.
Mr Churkin says it is hypocritical of the United States to ask Russia to withdraw troops from Ukraine’s border regions.
He says US troops are rarely on US soil.
(Russian, then translated:) “They’re either in Australia, Lithuania, Poland, the Black Sea — where an American vessel has stayed longer than it was invited to. Yes, our troops do conduct training exercises, but in a transparent way, upholding all existing international agreements. We don’t have any aggressive pretensions against Ukraine. The Kiev government should keep a cool head and not engage in reckless activities with respect to the people in the south-east of the country, where there are many Russian citizens as well. Thank you.”