Ukraine's ambassador accuses Russia of trying to damage Ukraine's credibility
ANKARA - Ukraine and Russia have exchanged blame over Sunday's shootout in eastern Ukrainian town Slavyansk, which appeared to have shattered an international agreement signed by Russia, Ukraine, the U.S. and the EU to de-escalate tension in the country.
According to Ukraine's top diplomat in Turkey's capital, Ankara, the Slavyansk gunfight was orchestrated as a "provocation" by Russia with a timing that was meant to create an impression that "Ukrainians can not be trusted as they can not even implement their own agreement."
Ukraine says the shootout in Slavyanks killed one person, whereas the Russian tally says at least three people were killed. On Sunday, pro-Russian locals told Anadolu Agency that the fight was started by the members of the far right Ukrainian nationalist group Right Sector.
"Russia tries to show the Right Sector as fascists and a major threat to Russian speaking people in eastern Ukraine," Ambassador Sergiy Korsunsky told AA on Monday. "The Right Sector is very pro-Ukrainian, but they are definitely not against anybody."
However, Russia blamed the Kiev government for failing to disarm "extremists" and said the Right Sector was responsible for the deaths of ethnic Russians.
The Geneva deal, which was reached last Thursday by Russia, Ukraine, the U.S. and the EU, called for the disarming of all illegal groups.
As to the agreement, Korsunsky said, it was an urgent attempt to prevent Russian aggression against Ukraine. "We believe there is still a window and an opportunity to end the crisis," he said.
Blaming Russia for provoking people to participate in armed illegal actions, he said, "If those were peaceful protests demanding political changes, we would listen to them; but in reality armed people occupy government buildings and terrorize cities."
-Status of Russian language in Ukraine
Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk pledged "special status" for the Russian language and to transfer more powers from the central government to local administrations in an attempt to ease tension in the east of the country.
"No one is going to harm you or beat you if you speak Russian, it is acceptable. This issue was artificially created by Russia and put into the minds of Ukrainians in the east," Korsunsky said.
"When former President Viktor Yanukovych was in power, nobody in eastern Ukraine, which was Yanukovych's support base, demanded more power and a special status for Russian language. Once he was ousted, these issues came to the forefront. What prevented [Yanukovych] from doing so?"
He said: "They also want to take care of the budget and they want the majority of local taxes."
He also warned that Russia would face more sanctions if the crisis does not ease, which would cause more economic damage to Russia which has already lost around $150 billion.
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