NATO Commander accuses Russia of destabilising Eastern Ukraine

Thursday, 5 June 2014 00:16 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

REUTERS: NATO’s top military commander accused Russia on Wednesday of destabilising eastern Ukraine through the use of Russian-backed forces and demanded that it stop interfering. While a majority of the troops Russia had close to the Ukrainian border – previously estimated by NATO at 40,000 – had withdrawn or were in the process of withdrawing, some appeared intent on staying, US Air Force General Philip Breedlove, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, said. “There are several large formations that are remaining and they have not reduced their presence in any way. Some portion of the force looks like it intends to remain,” he said. Breedlove said he saw Russia’s hand behind unrest in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists have seized control of several towns and are locked in combat with the Ukrainian army. “Russia is continuing to destabilise Ukraine in other ways. Russian irregular forces, Russian-backed forces, and Russian financing are very active in eastern Ukraine. This has to stop,” Breedlove told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of NATO defence ministers in Brussels. “I think what you see in the east part of Ukraine are very well-led, very well-financed, very well-organised clashes with Ukrainian forces, seizing Ukrainian buildings. It is very clear that the Russian influence is a part of this,” he said. Moscow denies such involvement in eastern Ukraine. US Secretary of State John Kerry has raised concerns with Moscow about reports of Chechens and other fighters crossing into Ukraine from Russia to join the rebellions against the leadership in Kiev. The Kremlin-backed leader of Chechnya has denied sending fighters to support pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, but said some could have gone of their own accord.

 Merkel says won’t hesitate to toughen Russia sanctions if needed

REUTERS: German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday she would not hesitate to impose economic sanctions on Russia if the situation in Ukraine were further destabilised, urging President Vladimir Putin to help by using his influence on pro-Russian separatists. “It is decisive that President Putin use his influence to get the separatists to refrain from violence and intimidation, hand over their weapons and stop the occupations,” she said in a speech in parliament. “If this doesn’t happen, we won’t shrink from imposing further sanctions.” Speaking before a summit of the Group of Seven leading powers in Brussels, she said the world had not yet done enough to regulate financial markets, including ‘shadow banking’ which she said would be on the agenda of a G20 summit in Brisbane.