WASHINGTON, May 31. /ITAR-TASS/. The United States believes the Ukrainian government is exercising restraint in the course of what Kiev calls an antiterrorism operation in Ukraine’s eastern regions, US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at a press briefing on Friday.
Asked by a journalist whether “the [US] Administration believes that the Ukrainian military has shown restraint in its operations” in Ukraine’s East, which have claimed dozens of lives, including civilian, Psaki gave a positive answer.
“They [the Ukrainian government] have every right to take steps to maintain law and order in their own country,” she said.
“While unfortunate incidents will always happen in a combat zone, we commend and continue to commend the Ukrainian government’s restraint and efforts to limit damage and injury to the civilian population,” Psaki said.
Meanwhile, Denis Pushilin, the head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) in Ukraine’s East, told Itar-Tass Tuesday that more than 50 militiamen and 20-50 civilians have been killed since Kiev re-launched the active phase of its military operation in Donetsk on May 26, next day after an early presidential election in Ukraine.
Donetsk Mayor Alexander Lukyanchenko has confirmed the death of at least 40 people in clashes near the Sergey Prokofyev International Airport in Donetsk, which started in the morning of May 26 and in which Ukraine’s military used attack aircraft, including fighters and combat helicopters. Ukrainian parliament-appointed interior minister Arsen Avakov has confirmed that “dozens” died as a result of Kiev’s operation.
Psaki blamed human rights violations in eastern Ukrainian regions on “separatists” - the way the United States calls federalization supporters in Ukraine’s southeast. Psaki did not present any proof.
“We have a fundamental disagreement with the Russians about what the Ukrainian government is doing and the validity of their own right to maintain calm and order in their own country,” the State Department spokeswoman said.
On Tuesday, Psaki said at a regular press briefing that the US government is still considering possible broader sanctions against Russia over the situation in Ukraine. She said Washington will be “coordinating with the EU” whether to use additional punitive measures against Moscow.
When a reporter asked Psaki on Tuesday whether Moscow was in any way involved in disruption of voting in Ukraine’s eastern regions during last Sunday’s presidential election in the country, she was unable to offer any proof to substantiate those US allegations.
Earlier the Russian Foreign Ministry reported that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, during a conversation with his US counterpart John Kerry, urged Washington to call on the Kiev authorities to immediately stop combat operations in Ukraine’s Southeast. Psaki’s answer apparently meant that the US does not plan to do so.
“With account for continuation of a punitive operation in southeastern regions [of Ukraine] with the use of aviation, armored vehicles and artillery, Sergey Lavrov called on the USA to urge the authorities in Kiev to abandon the pernicious stake on violence,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Kiev should also “immediately stop combat operations and engage in direct talks with the Southeast with the aim of organizing a truly nationwide dialogue on the basis of interests of the conflicting sides and all Ukrainian regions in accordance with the Geneva Statement of April 17 and the OSCE roadmap,” it said.
The Geneva Statement, adopted after the April 17 meeting on Ukraine that involved Russia, the United States, the European Union and Ukraine, in particular envisions that all illegal armed formations should be disarmed in Ukraine, all administrative buildings unblocked and all protesters except for those who committed serious crimes pardoned.
“The heads of foreign policy departments agreed to continue contacts called upon to contribute to the end of bloodshed and the overcoming of an acute internal crisis in Ukraine,” the Russian Foreign Ministry’s statement also said.
After a coup occurred in Ukraine in February and President Viktor Yanukovich had to leave for security reasons, the country has been in turmoil. In March, the Crimean Peninsula refused to obey the coup-imposed Ukrainian leaders and seceded from Ukraine after a referendum, reunifying with Russia after 60 years as part of Ukraine.
Despite Moscow’s repeated statements that the Crimean referendum on secession was in line with the international law and the UN Charter and in conformity with the precedent set by Kosovo’s secession from Serbia in 2008, the West and Kiev have refused to recognize the legality of Crimea’s reunification with Russia.
After Crimea’s incorporation by Russia, massive protests against the new Ukrainian authorities in Kiev erupted in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking southeastern territories. Demonstrators in southeastern regions, who have been demanding the country’s federalization, seized some government buildings.
Kiev has been conducting a punitive operation against pro-federalization activists that has already killed dozens of people, including civilians.
The Donetsk and Lugansk regions held referendums on May 11, in which most voters supported independence from Ukraine.
Some Russian and Crimean officials and companies have been subjected to sanctions by Western nations, including visa bans and asset freezes, after Crimea’s incorporation by Russia.
The West led by the United States has repeatedly threatened Russia with further penalties, including economic ones, for its position on Ukraine (incorporation of Crimea and what the West claimed was Moscow’s alleged involvement in protests in Ukraine’s Southeast).
Russia has rejected the threats of broader sanctions, saying the language of punitive measures is counterproductive and will have a boomerang effect on Western countries.
In late April, Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed Western claims that Russia could be in any way involved in pro-federalization protests in southeastern Ukraine.
“People say our special forces are present there [in Ukraine], say we have sent instructors there. Let me say in all responsibility that there are no Russian instructors, special forces or troops of any kind there. We have no one there,” Putin said.