Thursday

27th Apr 2017

Donetsk seizure raises concern of Ukraine escalation

  • Mural of ousted Ukraine leader Viktor Yanukovych, a former Donetsk governor (Photo: thierry ehrmann)

A Crimea-type operation in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, on Sunday (6 April) has raised concerns Russia is about to escalate the crisis.

Some 200 masked men from a group calling itself the “Rossiyskiy Sektor” used stun grenades to force their way into the local government building in the city, before erecting barricades outside and calling for a referendum on the Donetsk region’s independence.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Pro-Russian separatists the same day attacked local government buildings in Kharkiv and Luhansk.

The actions come amid Russia’s ongoing military build-up on Ukraine’s eastern and northern borders. The Russian foreign ministry on Sunday also claimed it has “sacks of letters” from Russian speakers in Ukraine asking for protection.

Meanwhile, on the economic front, Russia has threatened to cut off Ukraine’s gas on Monday unless it agrees to almost double the price and to start paying an $11 billion debt.

“[Russian leader] Putin and [Ukraine’s former leader] Yanukovych ordered and paid for the latest wave of separatist disorder in the east of the country. The people who have gathered are not many but they are very aggressive," Ukraine’s acting interior minister, Arsen Avakov, said.

“This seems to be a repeat of the Crimean scenario,” Oleksandr Lytvynenko, Ukraine’s deputy national security chief, noted, referring to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine’s Crimea region in February.

Sunday’s developments come after EU foreign ministers at a meeting in Athens on Friday and Saturday urged Russia not to go further.

"It is really important that Russia shows that it is serious about the de-escalation by moving troops back," EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said.

She noted that “work is ongoing” on economic sanctions against Russia in the worst case scenario. But the EU ministers also held out an olive branch.

German FM Frank-Walter Steinmeier reassured Moscow the EU-Ukraine association pact is “not a pre-stage for [EU] membership talks.” He said the EU and Russia should create a “contact group” to defuse the situation.

Ashton and Greek FM Evangelos Venizelos, who hosted the event, also underlined the need to keep open “channels of communication” with Moscow.

The tone changed on Sunday, however.

Commenting on Donetsk, Swedish FM Carl Bildt corroborated Avakov and Lytvynenko’s account. “Sunday pattern that pro-Russian thugs try to stir up trouble in eastern Ukraine. Heavily supported by Kremlin propaganda machine. And more,” he said on Twitter.

The Czech President, Miloz Zeman, told Czech Radio: “The moment Russia decides to widen its territorial expansion to the eastern part of Ukraine … I would plead not only for the strictest EU sanctions, but even for military readiness of the North Atlantic Alliance, like for example Nato forces entering Ukrainian territory.”

From the other side of the Atlantic, the US’ former ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, noted: “New violence in eastern Ukraine shows that Putin has no interest in a stable Ukraine. This struggle will be a long one.”

The new US ambassador to the EU, Anthony Luzzatto Gardner, said earlier on Friday: “It [Russia’s annexation of Crimea] is just the beginning of the story.”

Nato to keep expanding, suspends Russia ties

Nato states have said the alliance will keep on expanding despite Russia’s protests, while freezing most co-operation with Russia over the Ukraine crisis.

Dont expect 'quick fix' in Syria, China tells EU

Beijing special envoy on the Syrian conflict said in Brussels that "imposing" a solution from the outside would "not be workable" and that the peace process will not be "smooth sailing".

Russia suspected of Macron hack

Likely Russian spies tried to steal email passwords from Macron's people the same way they hacked US elections, new study says.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ECR GroupSyed Kamall: We Need a New, More Honest Relationship With Turkey
  2. ACCARisks and Opportunities of Blockchain and Shared Ledgers Technologies in Financial Services
  3. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  5. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  6. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  7. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  8. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  9. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  10. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region and the US: A Time of Warlike Rhetoric and Militarisation?
  12. European Free AllianceEFA MEPs Vote in Favor of European Parliament's Brexit Mandate

Latest News

  1. Russische Fake-News überschwemmen die sozialen Medien Frankreichs
  2. EU agency stuck with London rent bill
  3. EU anti-fraud office ditches Martin Schulz probe
  4. Commission launches bid to make Europe social
  5. MEPs act to strip Le Pen of immunity in fake jobs case
  6. EU starts legal action against Hungary
  7. Brexit is about Europe's future as well
  8. Power struggle in Greenland: Three reasons why the EU should care