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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Russia Warns West of 'Big Catastrophe' Over Ukraine

by VOA News January 29, 2015

Moscow's envoy to European security watchdog OSCE urged the United States and Europe on Thursday to stop supporting the "party of war'" in Ukraine and warned a "big catastrophe'' could lie ahead, according to Russia's Foreign Ministry.

"I would like to appeal to the representatives of countries that have influence on Ukraine's leadership, most of all to Washington: It's time to stop indulging Ukraine's 'party of war,''' said Russia's envoy to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Andrei Kelin, at a meeting of the group in Vienna.

"Only a big catastrophe can result from this if developments continue to evolve in [the current] direction,'' Kelin is quoted as saying, according to a text of his speech published on the Foreign Ministry's website. He did not elaborate.

Moscow has been accusing Kyiv of waging a war against Russian-speakers and ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine, while Kyiv and the West maintain Moscow created the conflict artificially with the aim of destabilizing Ukraine in retribution for its pro-Western course.

According to Ukraine and its Western allies, Russia is providing weapons and manpower, including regular Russian troops, for rebels battling government forces in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions, a charge Moscow denies.

To date, the conflict has claimed more than 5,000 lives.

Poroshenko calls for consultations

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has called on members of a trilateral contact group to immediately conduct consultations with the signatories of a peace agreement reached in September in Minsk, Belarus, with the aim of deescalating the crisis in eastern Ukraine, according to a statement on his website.

Poroshenko issued the call during a meeting Thursday in Kyiv with OSCE Special Representative Heidi Tagliavini, Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov and former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma, who has been acting as mediator between Kyiv, Moscow and pro-Russia separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Among the goals of the consultations Poroshenko listed the establishment of an immediate cease-fire in eastern Ukraine, the withdrawal of heavy weaponry from the line of separation as envisioned by the Minsk deal, the development of a timeframe for the removal of forces from the line of separation and the re-establishment of Ukraine's control over its borders with Russia.

The Minsk agreement was signed September 5 by Ukraine, Russia, the OSCE and representatives of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk "people's republics."

The contact group comprising the OSCE, Russia and Ukraine will reportedly meet Friday in Minsk.

Frontline tense, more casualties

Meanwhile, the frontline remains tense in eastern Ukraine, where fighting between government and rebel forces has killed five Ukrainian soldiers and three civilians within the last 24 hours, Ukraine' military reported.

Separatists have shelled Ukrainian army positions in more than 100 separate attacks in the past day, said military spokesman Andriy Lysenko in a televised briefing Thursday.

On the other side, rebels are reporting that Ukrainian forces had attacked their positions near Donetsk airport and Debaltseve, a strategic town, ten times since Wednesday, separatist-run DAN news agency reported.

Local volunteers assisting residents of Debaltseve point to a worsening humanitarian situation in the town as a result of what they say is near-continuous shelling.

"Everything is bad in Debaltseve, people are living full-time in shelters without fresh air," said Natalia Voronkova, who has been helping residents escape the area.

"Children are getting sick and there is a great need for medicine," she said.

Both sides have been accusing the other of escalating the conflict.

Some material for this story came from Reuters.

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