Time running out to end Ukraine 'madness', Germany warns
Germany's foreign minister warned Friday time is running out to end the "madness" in Ukraine, where tensions are soaring in what Kiev says is a Russian bid to trigger a "third world war".
Frank-Walter Steinmeier was on a trip to Tunisia with his French counterpart Laurent Fabius, and both called for a "de-escalation" of a crisis that has seen Ukraine's army launch a major offensive to dislodge pro-Moscow gunmen.
"There is not much time to end this madness," Steinmeier warned at a news conference in Tunis, shortly after Ukraine's interim prime minister accused Russia of seeking to trigger a "third world war".
"All sides must come back to their senses," he said, pointing to those "in conflict within Ukraine and those who support them from outside."
Kiev and Washington accuse Moscow of backing the pro-Russian insurgents -- a charge the Kremlin flatly denies.
Fabius, meanwhile, said Paris and Berlin were making a joint call for a "de-escalation" of the crisis.
Russia, Ukraine, the United States and European Union last week signed a deal meant to ease tensions in the former Soviet republic.
But a week on, this deal has all but failed as pro-Russian militants continue to occupy key buildings in the southeast of Ukraine and tensions soar sky high.
The rebels staged a brazen attack Friday on a Ukrainian military helicopter on the tarmac in the east, blowing it up with a rocket-propelled grenade. The pilot was wounded.
Kiev meanwhile announced its forces were seeking to "blockade" rebels inside the flashpoint town of Slavyansk to prevent more militants arriving, a day after its commandos made a brief incursion into the town, killing a 22-year-old insurgent.
Russia has responded by ordering its troops massed on Ukraine's border to launch a new military exercise.
The tense situation has triggered an increasingly strident war of words between Russia and the United States, amid concerns it could evolve into outright war.
© 2014 AFP