U.S. urges Putin to stop destabilizing Ukraine

A White House spokesman said that any move by Russian forces into eastern Ukraine would be a ‘serious escalation’

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The White House warned Russia’s President Vladimir Putin on Monday against moving either “overtly or covertly” into eastern Ukraine, saying it was concerned about “several escalatory” moves over the weekend.

“We call on President Putin and his government to cease all efforts to destabilize Ukraine and we caution against further military intervention,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters, according to Reuters.

He warned that any move into eastern Ukraine by Russian forces would be regarded as “a serious escalation and would unleash new consequences from the West,” Agence France-Presse reported.

The warning came after pro-Kremlin militants occupied the seat of government in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine and proclaimed independence from Kiev, promising a referendum on joining Russia.

Kiev’s interim authorities described the move as part of a plan to justify a Russian invasion to dismember the country.

“We saw groups of pro-Russian demonstrators take over government buildings in the eastern cities of Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk,” Carney said.

‘Strong evidence’

Furthermore, there was “strong evidence suggesting some of these demonstrators were paid and were not local residents,” the spokesman added.

Earlier on Monday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry told the authorities in Kiev to stop blaming Moscow for Ukraine’s problems after they accused Putin of orchestrating “separatist disorder” in the east and southeast.

“Stop ... blaming all the troubles of today’s Ukraine on it [Moscow],” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

It reiterated Russia’s call for constitutional reform that would give Ukraine’s regions more powers and said that Kiev could face more troubles, if ignored it.

“If irresponsible treatment of one’s country, one’s nation, by the political forces who call themselves the Ukrainian authorities continues, Ukraine will inevitably be facing new troubles and crises,” it said.

Ukrainian example

Meanwhile, Putin told his security chiefs on Monday to ensure Russia does not follow what he said was Ukraine’s example by letting the West use local civil rights groups to foment unrest, Reuters reported.

In a speech to the Federal Security Service (FSB), the KGB’s main successor, the former agent called for more vigilance and better counter-intelligence to fight threats ranging from Islamist militants to computer hackers.

“We will not accept a situation like what happened in Ukraine, when in many cases it was through non-governmental organizations that the nationalist and neo-Nazi groups and militants, who became the shock troops in the anti-constitutional coup d’état, received funding from abroad.”

However, Western leaders have dismissed such criticism, mainly aimed at the United States and the European Union, and blame the Russian president for causing the crisis in East-West relations by annexing the Crimea region from Ukraine on March 21.

(With AFP and Reuters)