It was generally quieter on Tuesday than past days in most of
eastern and southern Ukraine, but violence flared at dusk in the
eastern port of Mariupol, where a spokesman for pro-Moscow militants
told Russia's Itar-Tass news agency that one person was killed and
three wounded in an attack on a checkpoint.
In Kramatorsk, a separatist-held town in the east that saw an
advance by Ukrainian troops at the weekend, the coffin of
21-year-old nurse Yulia Izotova was carried through streets stilled
by barricades of tires and tree trunks on Monday. Scattered red
carnations traced the route.
At the Holy Trinity Church, seven priests led mourners in prayer for
a woman killed by large-caliber bullets, which the townsfolk believe
were fired by Ukrainian troops.
"They shoot at us. Why? Because we don't want to live with
fascists?" asked 58-year-old passport photographer Sergei Fominsky,
standing with his wife among the mourners. "We're not slaves. We
kneel to no one."
In Odessa, a previously peaceful, multiethnic Black Sea port where
more than 40 people were killed on Friday in the worst day of
violence since a February revolt toppled Ukraine's pro-Russian
president, pall-bearers carried Andrey Biryukov's open casket from a
van to the street corner where he was shot.
A pro-Ukrainian activist, Biryukov, 35, was killed during a day that
began with hundreds of pro-Russian sympathizers armed with axes,
chains and guns attacking a Ukrainian march, and ended later that
night with the pro-Russians barricaded inside a building that was
set on fire, killing dozens.
A small crowd of about 50 people stood around the body, covering it
with carnations and roses. A Ukrainian flag fluttered in the wind,
and a patriotic song about dead heroes was played from a sound
Relatives wept and a young woman fell on her knees crying loudly.
The corner where the man died was decorated with flowers and small
"The government has failed to protect its own people. The police
have failed miserably," said Nikita, a grizzled 56-year-old with a
Ukrainian yellow-and-blue arm-band.
Sergei, in his 40s, who also came to mourn, said violence "was
imported to Odessa".
"We were proud of Odessa as a unique place where people used to live
in peace, regardless of their beliefs and religion and race," he
said. "Now this is all gone."
In Mariupol, the main port for the eastern coal and steel region of
the Donbass, pro-Moscow militants told Russian news agencies that
one of their checkpoints on the outskirts was attacked late on
Tuesday - by Ukrainian forces or by pro-Kiev militia - and they were
preparing to repel further assaults.
Local website 0629.com.ua posted pictures of tires blazing outside
the city council building and thick smoke pouring over the town
centre. Some streets were barricaded by buses.
The surge in violence has changed the tone of international
diplomacy, with even cautious European states speaking increasingly
of the likelihood of war in a country of around 45 million people
the size of France.
"The bloody pictures from Odessa have shown us that we are just a
few steps away from a military confrontation," German Foreign
Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in interviews published in
four European newspapers.
The next few days could prove decisive: separatists in the Donbass
region say they will hold a referendum on secession on Sunday,
similar to the one that preceded Russia's annexation of Crimea in
In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry denounced any
attempt at a vote as "bogus," saying: "We flatly reject this illegal
effort to further divide Ukraine.
"This is really the Crimea playbook all over again, and no civilized
nation is going to recognize the results of such a bogus effort," he
said in a news conference with EU foreign policy chief Catherine
He again cautioned Moscow that Washington would impose more powerful
sanctions designed to hurt Russia's economy if it tried to disrupt
Ukraine's presidential election set for May 25.
Kerry suggested, however, that moving too soon on tougher sanctions
before diplomatic efforts have been fully explored could backfire.
He said he would meet ministers in Europe next week to discuss the
next steps on Ukraine.
Western concern so far has not been matched by any serious action
that might dissuade Russian President Vladimir Putin. The United
States and the European Union have imposed limited sanctions on
lists of individual Russians and small companies, but have held back
from measures designed to hurt Russia's economy broadly.
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Nonetheless, a senior Finance Ministry official in Moscow said
Russian GDP could shrink again this quarter.
NATO has made clear it will not fight to protect Ukraine, instead
beefing up defenses of its nearby member states. NATO's top military
commander, U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, said on Tuesday
the alliance would have to consider permanently stationing troops in
parts of Eastern Europe because of the increased tension between
Russia and Ukraine.
Breedlove, who said on Monday he did not think
Moscow would send troops into eastern Ukraine, stressed the steps
that NATO had taken so far were designed to support Eastern members
of the alliance.
"We are taking measures that should be very easily discerned as
being defensive in nature. This is about assuring our allies, not
provoking Russia, and we are communicating that at every level," he
said in Ottawa.
PRESSING THE OFFENSIVE
Two days before the separatists' referendum is Friday's annual
Victory Day holiday celebrating the Soviet Union's triumph over Nazi
Germany. Moscow has been openly comparing the government in Kiev to
the Nazis, and Ukrainian officials say they are worried that the day
could provoke violence. In Moscow, there will be a massive parade of
military hardware through Red Square, a Soviet-era tradition revived
The past few days have seen government forces press on with an
offensive but make little progress in the east, where separatist
rebels have so far held firm at their main outpost in the town of
Slaviansk and shot down three Ukrainian helicopters.
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on Tuesday more than 30
separatists had been killed in fighting around Slaviansk, but there
was no confirmation of such a figure. The rebels, who triggered
fighting in the area on Monday by ambushing government troops, said
four of their number had been killed.
At roadblocks in the town, some armed fighters have been replaced by
civilians, like Alexandra, in her late 20s, who said she leaves her
10-year-old daughter at home each morning, puts a starting pistol in
her belt and walks to the barricades. The tactic of putting
civilians at the front could make a government offensive more
"We have two options - to use heavy artillery ... wipe everything
out, put the flag up and report that everything has been done. The
second option is a gradual blockade, destroying provocateurs and
sabotage to prevent injuries among the population. We are carrying
out the second scenario," said acting Defense Minister Mykhailo
Koval, explaining why the operation had taken so long and achieved
Since a pro-European government took power after the uprising that
toppled pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovich, Putin overturned
diplomatic convention by declaring Moscow's right to send troops
across borders to protect Russian speakers.
Since Crimea's annexation, armed separatists have taken control of
most of the Donbass, which accounts for about 15 percent of
Ukraine's population and a third of industrial output.
Moscow has tens of thousands of troops massed on Ukraine's eastern
frontier. The outbreak of violence in Odessa, hundreds of kilometers
away near a Russian-occupied breakaway region of neighboring
Moldova, means the unrest has spread across the breadth of southern
and eastern Ukraine.
Western countries say Russian agents are directing the uprising and
Moscow is stoking the violence with a campaign of propaganda,
broadcast into Ukraine on Russian state channels, that depicts the
government in Kiev as "fascists".
"Russia sometimes sounds as if it's refighting WW2. Fascism all over
the place. Enemies everywhere. Ghosts of history mobilized," tweeted
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt.
(Additional reporting by Elizabeth Piper in Kiev and Randall Palmer
in Ottawa; Writing by Peter Graff and Peter Cooney; Editing by Giles
Elgood, Alastair Macdonald and Mohammad Zargham)
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