Russian President Vladimir Putin is warning that serious, though unspecified, "consequences" could follow after Ukrainian troops reportedly killed five pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country.
“If, in fact, the Kiev regime has started to use the armed forces against people inside the country, then, with no doubt, it is a serious crime against their own nation,” Mr. Putin said in a televised statement on Thursday.
From the Times:
Russia’s defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, said that troops in southern and western Russia, the areas surrounding Ukraine, as well as the air force, would begin drills. That would include flights along the border, Mr. Shoigu said at a meeting of Russia’s top military council.
“We have to react to such developments,” he said of the Ukrainian attacks.
As the New York Times reports, Russia also responded to the violence by saying it was immediately launching new military drills for its soldiers located near the border with Ukraine.
According to Reuters:
Interior Ministry forces [from Kiev] backed by the army removed three checkpoints manned by armed groups in the separatist-controlled town of Slaviansk, the ministry said in a statement.
"During the armed clash up to five terrorists were eliminated," it said, adding that one person had been wounded on the side of government forces.
And the Guardian adds:
As limited hopes of a peace deal struck last week in Geneva dwindled fast, diplomats responded to violent clashes in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk with a fresh war of words that hinted instead at the risk of further escalation.
"If our interests, our legitimate interests, the interests of Russians have been attacked directly, like they were in South Ossetia, I do not see any other way but to respond in full accordance with international law," said the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, referring to the 2008 war that led to the breaking away of the Georgian republic of South Ossetia.
His apparent threat was followed by the announcement of new Russian military exercises along the Ukrainian border and echoed by Putin, who described Ukraine's moves to oust pro-Russian supporters from government buildings as a "punitive operation" and threatened Kiev with unspecified consequences.
"If the Kiev government is using the army against its own people this is clearly a grave crime," said the Russian president.