Ukraine pledges restraint in dealing with separatists

25th April 2014, Comments 0 comments

Ukraine will exercise restraint in its operations against pro-Russian separatists in the eastern part of the country, said Ukraine deputy foreign minister Danylo Lubkivsky at the United Nations Friday.

"The anti-terrorist operation is ongoing, but we are guided by one major idea: we would like to avoid any victims or casualties," he told reporters.

"We will protect our people from danger and provocations of the pro-Russian separatists but avoid any possible bloodshed; do it in a civilized manner," he pledged.

He said authorities in Kiev "want to give peace a chance," calling on Russia to pull back the troops it has massed along the border and to negotiate a peaceful settlement.

However, asked how Kiev would respond to a Russian military operation in Ukraine, Lubkivsky said, "if Russia crosses the line, crosses the border, we will fight to defend our country."

"We have the information that we are in danger," he emphasized, without giving details. "We do hope common sense and a strong international community will calm down the aggressor."

Moscow this week raised the threat of a military intervention in Ukraine and launched drills along the border involving, in particular, its air force.

The tension also mounted in the east between Kiev and separatists around the pro-Russian stronghold of Slavyansk.

The Ukraine government announced its forces were now seeking to "blockade" rebels inside Slavyansk, in a bid to prevent militant reinforcements from arriving and to spare civilian casualties.

Observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe were detained and taken to the rebel-held security services building, sparking immediate international condemnation.

Lubkivsky added Kiev's condemnation, urging "the release of the hostages."

The deputy foreign minister was to meet deputy secretary general Jan Eliasson while at the United Nations in New York, but no meeting was planned with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Ban continues to call for calm and dialogue from both sides in the Ukraine crisis, his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

The secretary general, he added, believes "it would be grave mistake ... for any party to turn to military means" to resolve the crisis.

Ban warned that "the situation could spin out of control quickly, with grave and unpredictable consequences" for international peace and security, well beyond Ukraine's borders.

© 2014 AFP

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