Alarm bells as Russia condemns ‘lawlessness’ in eastern Ukraine

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Russia’s Foreign Ministry has denounced alleged lawlessness by far-right activists in eastern Ukraine, a statement likely to trigger alarms about possible Russian intervention in the country.

Ukraine’s foreign minister said his country already felt like it was almost in a state of war after Russian forces took effective control of the Crimean Peninsula. A referendum has been called there for next Sunday on whether the region should split off and seek to become part of Russia.

Pro-Russia sentiment is also high in Ukraine’s east and there are fears Russia could seek to incorporate that area as well.

On Sunday, a pro-Russian crowd in the eastern city of Luhansk occupied the regional government headquarters, raised the Russian tricolor and demanded the right to hold a referendum on joining Russia, like in Crimea.

The Kremlin statement also claimed Russian citizens trying to enter Ukraine have been turned back at the border by Ukrainian officials.

In its statement yesterday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said lawlessness “now rules in eastern regions of Ukraine as a result of the actions of fighters of the so-called ‘Right Sector’ with the full connivance” of Ukraine’s new authorities.”

Right Sector is a grouping of several far-right and nationalist factions. Its activists were among the most radical and confrontational of the demonstrators in the Ukrainian capital Kiev and organised “self-defence” brigades for the protest camp.

In Kiev, foreign minister Andrii Deshchytsya yesterday received his counterparts from Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, who had come to show support for Ukraine in what has turned into Europe’s greatest geopolitical crisis since the end of the Cold War.

“We have to admit that our life now is almost like... a war,” Mr Deshchytsya said.