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Putin: Ukraine has fallen into civil war

By Agencies in Moscow and St Petersburg, Russia and Karlivka, Ukraine | China Daily | Updated: 2014-05-24 08:03

Germany's Chancellor Merkel asks Russia to respect election assessment

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday he believed Ukraine had collapsed into civil war.

Reiterating comments by other Russian leaders, he told businessmen at a conference in St Petersburg that there had been chaos since former president Viktor Yanukovich was forced out of office in Ukraine in February.

The chaos, he said, had given way to civil war.

Problems linked to Ukraine and Crimea were caused by lack of world trust, he said, according to a ITAR-TASS report.

Without Russia, Crimea would have seen a worse tragedy than the May 2 massacre in Odessa, he added.

The West has threatened Russia with painful sanctions against entire sectors of its troubled economy should it be deemed to have disrupted the Ukraine election that is almost certain to bring a new pro-Western leader to power.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Putin to accept the assessment of about 1,000 observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe who are monitoring the election throughout the country of 46 million people.

"I expect Russia to respect the doubtlessly objective assessment of the OSCE - after all, it is a member of the organization," Merkel said in interview with the Saarbruecker Zeitung newspaper.

In the face of the Western threats, Moscow has ordered the withdrawal of some 40,000 troops it has massed along its neighbor's border since seizing Crimea in reprisal for the February overthrow of Yanukovich.

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that the West needed to learn the "right lesson" from the Ukraine crisis, as he criticized efforts to contain Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

"If the goal is to prevent such crises from repeating in the future, the right lesson must be learned from events in Ukraine," Lavrov told a security conference in Moscow.

The Ukraine crisis is "the logical result of the evolution of the situation in Europe in the last 25 years", he said.

Russia's chief of general staff, Valery Gerasimov, told the conference that Moscow would take steps to respond to what he said was increased NATO activity near its border amid the crisis in Ukraine.

"The intensity, the operational and combat readiness of the (Western military) alliance's troops is being increased near the Russian border. In these circumstances ... We have to take retaliatory measures," he said.

In the latest development in Ukraine, at least five people were killed on Friday in fighting near the eastern hub of Donetsk, two days before a presidential election undermined by an upsurge in attacks by militia forces.

The latest bloodshed, on the heels of the deaths of 18 soldiers on Thursday in the eastern rustbelt near Russia, underscores the trouble the interim leaders have in making sure they can pull off a safe and well-attended vote on Sunday.

Interim president Oleksandr Turchynov appealed to voters to come out and show their support for the authorities in the face of an insurgency he and Western leaders accuse Russia of orchestrating.

"We will never again stand being denied freedom and independence or seeing our Ukraine being turned into a part of a post-Soviet empire," he said in a brief nationally televised address.



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