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Ukraine calls for renewal of anti-terror measures

April 23 2014, 12:19

Oleksandr TurchynovOleksandr TurchynovUkraine's acting President called on law enforcement agencies to renew anti-terror measures across the country, citing the discovery of two tortured bodies near the city of Slaviansk, cnn reports.

One of the victims was Vladimir Rybak, Oleksandr Turchynov said. Rybak, who recently went missing, was a member of the local parliament and belonged to the President's political party.

"The terrorists who basically have taken the entire Donetsk region hostage have crossed the line with torturing and killing Ukrainian patriots," Turchynov said.

Such crimes are committed with the support of Russian forces, he charged.

But a statement from a pro-Russian leader in Slaviansk rejects the President's claim, and highlights that there is a war of perceptions, too.

Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, the de facto mayor of Slaviansk, placed blame for the deaths on far-right Ukrainian nationalist extremists.

A pro-government party official told CNN that Rybak's family identified his body at the morgue Tuesday. But the competing claims persist.

Turchynov: Ukrainians want unity

Turchynov, meanwhile, had strong words for Moscow, saying that "Ukrainians are ready to protect their country from military aggression of the Russian Federation."

A majority of Ukrainian citizens "are for a united, democratic Ukraine with greater powers given to the regions," he said, referring to constitutional reforms promised in a bid to calm fears in eastern Ukraine.

Kiev and Western powers have urged Moscow to use its influence to persuade protesters in the east to lay down their arms, leave the buildings they're occupying and accept amnesty in line with last week's deal.

But Turchynov said Tuesday that "unfortunately, the Russian Federation and its terrorist special forces present in Ukraine are demonstratively not going to implement the Geneva agreement."

He cited the seizure of a police station Monday in the eastern city of Kramatorsk by militants who also took the police chief hostage, "thereby negating the agreements reached in Geneva."

Moscow has said that it holds no sway over pro-Russian protesters and militants. 

Meanwhile, a statement from the prosecutor general's office in Kiev criticized law enforcement agencies in a number of cities in eastern Ukraine for not resisting pro-Russian protesters as they seized administrative buildings -- even in cases where they outnumbered the militants.

The statement says self-defense groups in these places were established in reaction to the failings of the security forces. "These defense groups have the right to bear arms and promise to guarantee public order in their respective regions," it said.

Turchynov's government has talked tough but done little to curb pro-Russian activities in the east, possibly afraid that a crackdown could send Russian forces across the border, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said. At the same time, the occupation of buildings continues in about a dozen towns and cities across eastern Ukraine.

In three towns, pro-Russian protesters and militants have made it clear to CNN they have no intention of moving until the "illegal" government in Kiev also moves out of official buildings.

Moscow also says the government in Kiev, installed after ousted President Viktor Yanukovych fled Ukraine for Russia in February, is illegitimate and backed by far-right extremists.

Yanukovych's ouster followed months of street protests prompted by his decision last November to drop a planned EU trade agreement in favor of closer ties with Moscow.

Russia annexed Ukraine's autonomous Crimea region last month, following a controversial referendum in which most voters were in favor of joining the Russian Federation.

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