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article imageU.S. blames Russia for unrest in Ukraine

By Nathan Salant     Apr 8, 2014 in World
Washington - The United States accused Russia on Tuesday of fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine, possibly as a prelude to invasion of its neighbor.
The United States accused Russia of fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday, possibly as a prelude to invasion.
Secretary of State John Kerry, the country's top diplomat, told a U.S. Senate committee that Moscow might be planning to seize portions of eastern Ukraine, just as it did last month with Crimea.
"It is clear that Russian special forces and agents have been the catalyst behind the chaos of the last 24 hours," Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington DC, according to the Reuters international news service.
Kerry said Russia's actions "could potentially be a contrived pretext for military intervention, just as we saw in Crimea."
But Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, denied that his country was behind the unrest in Ukraine, where government buildings in two eastern cities remain under occupation by pro-Moscow protesters.
"One should not seek to put the blame on someone else," Lavrov told a news conference in Moscow, Reuters said.
Ukrainian special forces retook a regional government headquarters from pro-Russia protesters in Kharkiv on Monday, but buildings in Donetsk and Luhansk remained occupied on Tuesday, Reuters said.
In Donetsk, protesters declared independence from Kiev and appealed to Russia to send troops to occupy eastern Ukraine.
In Luhansk, security forces stayed away from the occupied building, saying separatists had planted bombs and were holding dozens of hostages, Reuters said.
But activists denied the hostage allegation but acknowledged that they had seized hundreds of automatic rifles and demanded a referendum on becoming part of the Russia.
Ukraine was part of Russia until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Russia's seizure and annexation of Crimea has alarmed Western nations and businesses, and appears to have brought relations with the U.S. to its lowest point since the end of the Cold War, Reuters said.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Monday that unrest had "all the hallmarks of a Russian strategy to destabilize Ukraine," Reuters said, and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said a Russian invasion would have "grave consequences."
"If Russia were to intervene further in Ukraine it would be a historic mistake," Rasmussen told reporters in Paris.
"It would have grave consequences for our relationship with Russia and would further isolate Russia internationally," he said.
The U.S. and European Union have imposed financial and travel sanctions on Russian leaders in response to the Crimea annexation but have not taken any further steps, although more-serious penalties are being threatened.
International investors have been cutting back on their involvement with Russia reflecting diminishing confidence in the country's economy, Reuters said.
On Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund cut its 2014 growth forecast for Russia by more than half to 1.3 percent, from the 3 percent that had been projected, Reuters said.
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