(Transcript from World News Radio)
There’s growing concern that unrest in eastern Ukraine may result in civil war.
The Ukrainian government’s use of troops against armed separatists who took control of government buildings in the east of the country has also fuelled fears of Russian military intervention.
Phillippa Carisbrooke reports.
(Click on audio tab to listen to this item)
NATO has responded to the worsening crisis by increasing the number of its patrols over Baltic nations.
With Russia massing tens-of-thousands of troops on Ukraine’s border, eastern members of the alliance have been calling for a more visible show of military strength.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says additional forces will be deployed as necessary.
“We will have more planes in the air, more ships on the water, and more readiness on the land….. We will start to implement these measures straight away. More will follow, if needed, in the weeks and months to come.”
Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have soared since Russia annexed the Crimea peninsula last month.
Ukraine has accused the Russian government of sending forces to its east and south to marshall pro-Russian militants into confronting authorities and destabilising the country.
Ahead of talks in Geneva with the United States, Russia, and the European Union aimed at de-escalating the crisis, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia, has set out a string of demands.
Among them, that Russia cease its support for what he calls “terrorist activities” in eastern Ukraine.
“I think that we still have a chance to de-escalate the situation using the diplomatic means. And we are trying hard.”
The US has warned it’s preparing new sanctions against Russia which intends to implement if talks fail.
Its ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, has urged Russia to pull troops back from the border with Ukraine.
“Let us be clear: the actions the world witnessed in Crimea and the denials of Russian involvement in the lead up to its illegal annexation and occupation are repeating themselves in eastern Ukraine. Again a region has been transformed almost overnight from a state of relative calm to manufactured unrest.”
Russia has repeatedly accused Ukraine’s government of failing to protect ethnic Russians from Ukrainian nationalists, and used this to justify its annexation of Crimea.
But a UN report has found no evidence of widespread abuse of ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine.
Presenting his findings, the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Simonovic, said while there were some attacks on the ethnic Russian community, they were isolated.
“These were neither systematic nor widespread. They were isolated incidents which were then exaggerated through some biased media reporting fuelling fear and insecurity among the ethnic Russian community.”
Russia’s envoy to the UN dismissed the report as “biased”.