Tensions are again soaring in Ukraine on Tuesday as leaders of the interim government in the western capitol city of Kiev trade accusations and threats with leaders in Moscow (and themselves) over events in eastern cities of the country closer to its Russian border.
As security forces sent from Kiev cleared protesters from government buildings in the city of Kharkiv, arresting 70 pro-Russian activists in the process, the Russian Foreign Ministry warned that further violence against those demanding their right to a referendum on indepence from Ukraine could lead to civil war.
"We are calling for the immediate cessation of any military preparations, which could lead to civil war," the Russians said in a statement.
As the interim Ukraine government announced preparations for a larger security operation for Kharkiv and the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, the Russians accused Kiev of including hired mercenaries from the private U.S. military firm Greystone as part of its "special operations" units in addition to members of far-right and nationalist militias.
According to CNN:
The ministry alleged that what it called "American experts from the private military organization Greystone," disguised as soldiers, as well as militants from the Ukrainian far-right group Right Sector, had joined Ukrainian forces preparing for the crackdown in the country's east.
Late Monday, Ukrainian special forces cleared armed protesters from the headquarters of Ukrainian security services in Donetsk, acting President Oleksandr Turchynov's office announced.
But Ukraine's interim Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Yarema was quoted by Russian state-run news agency ITAR-Tass as saying Tuesday that the authorities are not going to storm the city's regional administration building. Yarema said the decision was made after talks with representatives of the protesters in the building.
A CNN team on the ground said that pro-Russian protesters appear still to be in control of the building and that there is no sign of special forces nearby.
In the city of Luhansk, pro-Russian separatists continued to occupy the Security Services Buildings and are reportedly better armed after accessing a weapons depot inside.
In Donetsk, where those who took over the central administative buildings declared independence on Monday and demanded a referendum by week's end, a standoff between security forces continued. There, according to Reuters, "steel-and-energy tycoon Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine's richest man, is mediating with the protesters, but he may have complicated the plans of the authorities by publicly urging authorities not to use force as a solution."
Brawl in Parliament
Meanwhile, in Kiev, a "brawl" broke out in the parliament building as left-leaning PMs clashed with their right-wing counterparts over the manner in which the crisis in Crimea and now these other eastern cities has been handled.
According to the Guardian:
A brawl erupted in the Ukrainian parliament chamber after the country's communist leader accused nationalists of playing into the hands of Russia by adopting extreme tactics early in the Ukrainian crisis.
Two deputies from the Svoboda far-right nationalist party took exception to the charges by communist Petro Symonenko and seized him while he was talking from the rostrum. His supporters rallied to his defence and a brawl broke out with deputies from other parties joining in and trading punches. [...]
Against the backdrop of the deepening crisis in the south-east, Symonenko stirred nationalist anger in parliament when, referring to the pro-Russian protesters who had seized buildings in eastern Ukraine, he suggested that nationalists had set a precedent earlier this year by seizing public buildings in protest at the rule of the ousted president, Viktor Yanukovych.
Now, he said, armed groups were attacking people who wanted to defend their rights by peaceful means. "You are today doing everything to intimidate people. You arrest people, start fighting people who have a different point of view," he said, before being pulled away from the rostrum by the Svoboda deputies.