Will ‘hit back’ if its interests are threatened in Ukraine

Russia has bluntly accused the United States of “running the show” in Kiev’s military crackdown on protests in eastern provinces and warned it will hit back if its interests are attacked in Ukraine. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Washington was behind the “anti-terrorist” operation against anti-government protesters in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking southeast.

Mr. Lavrov said it was “quite telling” that Kiev had launched its “criminal” operation “immediately after” CIA Director John Brennan visited Ukraine earlier this month and then re-launched it again hours after U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden left Kiev on Tuesday.

“There is no reason not to believe that the Americans are running the show,” Mr. Lavrov told the Russia Today TV channel on Wednesday. He warned Washington and Kiev that Moscow would be forced to respond militarily if its “legitimate interests” are attacked. “If our interests, our legitimate interests, the interests of Russians are attacked directly, like they were attacked in South Ossetia, for example, I do not see any other way but to respond in accordance with international law,” Mr. Lavrov stated.

In 2008 Russian defeated Georgia after it attacked South Ossetia in a bid to reassert its control over the breakaway territory.

Moscow’s stark warning came as the U.S. announced the deployment of 600 troops in Poland and the Baltic states for open-ended manoeuvres.

Restarting operations

The Pentagon has also sent a frigate, USS Taylor, to the Black Sea, bringing to three warships NATO’s naval presence in the region. The other two are USS Donald Cook, a destroyer with the Aegis missile defence system, and French intelligence vessel Dupuy de Lome.

Ukraine’s Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov said on Tuesday he was ordering the armed forces to restart the operation after the discovery of two bodies in Sloviansk controlled by protesters.

Mr. Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had another bristling telephone conversation late on Tuesday. The Russian Foreign Minister demanded that Kiev “implement in good faith the April 17 Geneva agreements” by revoking its order to use the army against civilians disarming the Right Sector militants and releasing arrested protesters. Mr. Kerry countered by expressing “deep concern over the lack of positive Russian steps to de-escalate.” Russia on Wednesday urged Kiev to “immediately” halt its military crackdown on protesters as envisaged by the Geneva agreement.

“The Russian sides again insists on immediate de-escalation of the situation in Ukraine’s southeast, the withdrawal of Ukrainian army units and the launching of a credible dialogue in Ukraine involving all regions and political forces of the country,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

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