"Ready to intervene in Ukraine to protect compatriots"
Russia warned on Friday it was still ready to intervene in Ukraine to protect its “compatriots and citizens” against attacks by “far right radicals.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry issued the warning in a statement on deadly clashes in Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine that left one man dead and nearly 30 wounded.
A 22-year-old activist of the nationalist Svoboda Party was stabbed to death during clashes between pro-Russian demonstrators and supporters of the new government in Kiev. Twenty-nine people were wounded, including one in serious condition, authorities said.
The clashes broke out when Euromaidan activists from Kiev attempted to rally “in favour of Ukraine’s unity” in the industrial city of Donetsk on Thursday night even as pro-Russian demonstrators were protesting against the arrest of their leader accused of fomenting separatism.
The Donetsk clashes marked an ominous shift from last month’s clashes between anti-government protesters and police to confrontation between pro-Russian protesters and Ukrainian nationalists.
Nearly 90 people died in violent protests in Kiev’s Maidan Square last month, which led to the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych.
Moscow said that the violence in the Russian-speaking city showed the Ukrainian authorities “do not control the situation in the country.”
“Russia is aware of its responsibility for the lives of compatriots and fellow citizens in Ukraine and reserves the right to take people under its protection,” the Russian statement said.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin had cited the need to protect “the lives of Russian citizens and compatriots” when he asked for and obtained a parliamentary mandate last month to send armed forces to Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Russia and NATO continue to flex military muscles in Europe.
Around 16,000 soldiers from 16 NATO countries began drills in Norway, 400 km from the Russian border, on Wednesday to test their air, land and maritime mettle in extreme weather and cold conditions.
A U.S. missile cruiser has been holding exercises in the Black Sea with Bulgarian and Romanian vessels and a U.S. AWACS early warning aircraft began patrolling Ukraine’s borders on Thursday.
Russia on Wednesday announced land forces manoeuvres in its southern military district near Ukraine.