Pro-Kremlin militias ignore Ukraine ultimatum

Pro-Kremlin militias ignore Ukraine ultimatum

Ukraine's latest ultimatum to pro-Kremlin militias who have seized buildings across a swath of the separatist east expired today without any sign of the gunmen ready to give in.

The streets of the impoverished coal mining town of Slavyansk remained deserted and silent despite the Western-backed interim president's vow to unleash a "full-scale anti-terrorist operation" involving the army should the gunmen not give up the local police station and state security office by 0600 GMT.

Saturday's raids in the town and the dual threat posed by Russia's deployment of 40,000 troops on Ukraine's border and warning of a possible gas cutoff has left Kiev's untested leaders desperately seeking Western help in averting a further dismemberment of their crisis-hit ex-Soviet state.

EU foreign ministers -- their capitals bracing for what might be the third halt in Russian gas supplies since 2006 -- gathered in Luxemburg to discuss whether to pursue a third and most punishing-yet round of economic sanctions against Moscow.

Both Kiev's ultimatum and the Western chorus charging that the Kremlin was directly involved in the coordinated raids across Ukraine's heavily Russified rust belt led Moscow to call an emergency UN Security Council meeting, where the charged atmosphere echoed diplomatic battles waged at the height of the Cold War.

Moscow's UN embassador Vitaly Churkin said in a prepared statement that "the international community must demand the stooges of Maidan stop the war against their own people."

Maidan refers to the barricade-scarred protest square in Kiev that witnessed dozens of deaths during months of protests that toppled an unpopular Russian-backed leader in February and brought to power a team seeking an alliance with the European Union but denounced as illegitimate by Moscow.

Churkin dismissed US charges of Russian agents' involvement in the latest unrest and accused the West of supporting "radicalised, chauvinistic, Russophobic, anti-Semitic forces" in Kiev.

But Russia found itself isolated in a manner similar to a UN session at which Moscow was forced to veto a nearly-unanimously backed Security Council resolution condemning its seizure and annexation of Ukraine's Black Sea peninsula of Crimea last month.

"This is the saddest kind of instability. It is completely man made. It was written and choreographed in and by Russia," US ambassador Samantha Power told the 15-member council.

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