Putin gets 'requests for assistance'

Updated: 2014-04-15 07:20

By Agencies in Moscow (China Daily)

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Putin gets 'requests for assistance'

A pro-Russian protester gestures at a barricade in front of the seized office of the SBU state security service in Luhansk, in eastern Ukraine on Monday. Pro-Russian separatists on Monday defied Kiev's warnings that it was preparing to act against the insurgents. Shamil Zhumatov / Reuters

Ukrainian govt appeals to UN for deployment of peacekeepers

Russian President Vladimir Putin is receiving many requests for help from eastern Ukraine, where pro-Moscow protesters have clashed with authorities, and is watching the situation with "great concern", his spokesman said on Monday.

"Unfortunately, we are receiving a lot of such requests from the regions of east Ukraine, addressed personally to Putin, with a request to help, to intervene in some form," Russian news agencies quoted Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying.

"The Russian president is watching the development of the situation in these regions with great concern."

Ukraine's acting President Oleksandr Turchynov called on Monday for the deployment of United Nations peacekeeping troops in the east of the country, where pro-Russian insurgents have occupied buildings in nearly 10 cities.

In a telephone conversation with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Turchynov suggested that an "anti-terrorist operation" could be conducted jointly by Ukrainian security forces and UN peacekeepers, according to the presidential website.

Peacekeepers would have to be authorized by the UN Security Council, in which Russia holds a veto.

The request comes from a government that has proved powerless to reign in separatists in the Russian-speaking east of the country, where insurgents have been occupying government offices in cities for the past week.

A deadline for the insurgents to lay down their arms, set by Turchynov, passed on Monday morning without any visible action.

Instead, violence continued. A pro-Russian mob stormed a police station in yet another city near the Russian border, while gunmen took control over a military airport in the area.

Dozens of angry men hurled rocks, smashed the windows and broke into a police station in the city of Horlivka not far from the border with Russia, and flew the Russian flag from the building.

Hundreds of onlookers outside chanted "Referendum!" and "Russia!" A video posted online showed a policeman confronting a separatist, then being beaten by the mob and taken away in an ambulance. Other policemen switched their allegiance to the demonstrators.

The events in Horlivka were the latest sign of trouble in Russian-speaking eastern and southern regions, in which pro-Russian gunmen have seized or blocked government buildings in at least nine cities demanding more autonomy from the central government and closer ties with Russia.

And in a move set to further stoke up tensions, Pro-Russian separatists who said they were part of a new "Donetsk People's Republic" in eastern Ukraine appealed for Russian President Vladimir Putin to help defend them against Ukrainian government forces.

The developments came as European Union foreign ministers met in Luxembourg to consider further sanctions against Russia, and three days ahead of a scheduled conference in Geneva involving diplomats from the United States, Russia, the European Union, Ukraine and Switzerland, which is intended to seek ways of defusing tensions.

Russia has warned the Kiev government against using force against the protesters in the east and has threatened to cancel the conference.

Turchynov said the Kiev leadership was not opposed to a nationwide referendum being held on the type of state Ukraine should be and added that he was sure it would confirm the wishes of the majority for a united, independent country.

Holding a referendum has been one of the demands by the rebels in eastern Ukraine, although they envisage a poll being held only in their home region.

Turchynov said such a referendum could be held at the same time as a presidential election on May 25.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Ukraine's Russian-speaking eastern regions should be involved in drafting a constitution that should be put to the referendum.