Ukraine President calls for UN peacekeepers
KIEV — Ukraine’s acting President Oleksandr Turchinov yesterday called 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, ignoring an ultimatum to leave as well as attacking a police headquarters yesterday.
In a telephone conversation with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, Mr Turchinov 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 authorised by the UN Security Council, in which Russia holds a veto.
The request comes from a government that has proved powerless to rein in separatists in the Russian-speaking east of the country, where insurgents have been occupying government offices in cities for the past week. Angered by the death of a state security officer and the wounding of two comrades near Slaviansk, Mr Turchinov warned rebels on Sunday that an anti-terrorist operation involving the army would begin unless they laid down their arms and that the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine “will soon be stabilised”.
His warning raised fears of possible Russian military intervention, but there were no signs of any Ukrainian forces in Slaviansk yesterday and no sign of an anti-terrorist operation. Instead, the 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 eastern Ukraine.
The Kiev government and Western officials accuse Russia of instigating the unrest and of deploying armed Russian agents to carry them out.
During the storming of a police station by at least 100 pro-Russian separatists in the city of Horlivka earlier yesterday, one man identified himself as a lieutenant colonel of the Russian army. Later in the day, armed men in masks also seized control of a military airport outside the city Slovyansk, also in the Donetsk region.
Mr Turchinov yesterday also held out the possibility of a referendum on the future shape of the Ukrainian state, partly addressing demands made in the largely Russian-speaking east for more control over their local affairs.
He said the Kiev leadership was “not against” a nationwide referendum being held on the type of state Ukraine should be and added he was sure it would confirm the wish of the majority for a united, independent country.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Ukraine’s Russian-speaking eastern regions should be involved in drafting a Constitution that should be put to the referendum.