MOSCOW, April 14 (RIA Novosti) – The use of force against protesters in Ukraine will undermine the prospects of cooperation between Moscow and Kiev, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday.
On Sunday, the regime in Kiev launched a special operation to suppress unrest in eastern Ukraine, where demonstrators have rallied in support of greater regional autonomy following a coup in the capital in February.
“We have said clearly that the use of force against the demonstrators would in general seriously undermine prospects for cooperation in stabilizing the Ukrainian crisis,” Lavrov told Ukraine’s acting Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia.
Lavrov said the decision by the coup-imposed Ukrainian government to use force against protestors, including with army troops, was an extremely dangerous move.
“This development of events is extremely dangerous and those who are encouraging the current power in Kiev to engage in such behavior should completely assume responsibility [for their actions],” Lavrov said.
On Sunday, acting Ukrainian President Oleksander Turchynov issued a deadline to pro-federalization protesters of 10 a.m. Moscow time Monday to disarm or face a “full-scale anti-terrorist operation” involving the country’s armed forces.
Ukrainian security forces launched an operation on Sunday to suppress protesters in the town of Slaviansk, in the eastern Donetsk Region. At least one person was killed and nine others were injured in clashes, local health officials said, while activists claimed at least three people died.
Lavrov dismissed the so-called “anti-terrorist” operation against pro-federalization protesters as the height of cynicism. “We should remember how violence on Maidan that led to dozens of victims was called democracy, while peaceful protests in the southeast are referred to as terrorism,” the minister said.
“The hypocrisy has gone off the scale,” he said, adding that Moscow demands an adequate reaction from the West regarding the events.
Beginning last month, protests have been regularly held in the eastern Ukrainian cities of Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv, with citizens demanding referendums on their regions’ status within the country. The protests have spread to other towns in the Donetsk region, including Slaviansk, Mariupol, Yenakiyevo and Kramatorsk.
Last Monday, pro-federalization activists declared the formation of the independent People’s Republic of Kharkiv and Donetsk People’s Republic.