Russia confirms troops deployed near Ukraine
The U.S. warns Moscow will face tougher sanctions if it fails to abide by a deal arrived in Geneva
A Kremlin spokesman confirmed Friday that Russia has built up its military presence on the Ukrainian border, Agence France Presse reported, as the United States warned that Moscow would face tougher sanctions if it failed to abide by a new international deal on Ukraine.
"We have troops in different regions, and there are troops close to the Ukrainian border. Some are based there, others have been sent as reinforcements due to the situation in Ukraine," spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Rossiya 1 television, AFP reported.
In Washington, Susan Rice, President Barack Obama's national security adviser, was quoted by Reuters as saying that Moscow would face tougher sanctions if it failed to abide by a deal arrived in Geneva a day earlier that held the hope of defusing the stand-off in Ukraine.
She warned Moscow would also face sanctions if it moved to send Russian forces into eastern Ukraine.
"Those costs and sanctions could include targeting very significant sectors of the Russian economy," Rice told reporters.
Rice said the U.S. was watching very closely to see whether Russia met its obligations to use its influence to get pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine to disarm and abandon public buildings they had seized.
In Geneva Thursday, the U.S., Russia, Ukraine and EU brokered a deal requiring all illegal armed groups to disarm and end occupations of public buildings, streets and squares.
The warning from Rice came as Russia reacted angrily to previous U.S. warnings, including from President Barack Obama, that it could face new sanctions if it did not live up to the Geneva deal.
Peskov said Russia would not be the only party held responsible for implementing the agreement on easing tensions in Ukraine, according to AFP.
He added that threats of further sanctions by Washington were "absolutely unacceptable.”
"Our Western colleagues are trying to push responsibility [for implementing the deal] toward our side. But it must be underlined: it is a collective responsibility," Peskov said.
Earlier Friday, armed pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine said they were not bound by the conditions of the international deal until the government in Kiev government quit.
Denis Pushilin, the head of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic, was quoted by Reuters as telling journalists in the regional capital Donetsk that Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov "did not sign anything for us, he signed on behalf of the Russian Federation."
He said the prime minister and acting president who took power in February should first quit their offices, as they took them over "illegally.”
In a bid to defuse protests, Ukraine's acting president and prime minister offered some of their strongest pledges for constitutional change.
In a joint televised address, acting President Oleksander Turchinov and Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk called for national unity, urged people to refrain from violence and said they would support constitutional change, decentralizing more power to local councils, including over their official language - a key demand of Russian-speakers, Reuters reported.
Kiev also said the government was preparing a law that would give the separatists an amnesty if they backed down.
(AFP and Reuters)