Russia to ‘respond’ to alleged Ukraine cross-border fire
Kiev warned of potentially ‘irreversible consequences’ following death of Russian man
Russian president Vladimir Putin has repeatedly vowed to defend people who feel Russian across the former Soviet Union and especially in Ukraine. Photograph: Reuters/Mikhail Klimentyev/RIA Novosti/Kremlin
Moscow has vowed to respond to alleged artillery fire from Ukraine that it claims killed a Russian man near the countries’ border, warning Kiev that it was responsible for the incident’s potentially “irreversible consequences”.
The stark message from Moscow came as fighting between Kiev’s troops and pro-Russian rebels intensified in eastern Ukraine, and people continued to flee the region amid fears of a bloody showdown in its major towns.
Moscow’s foreign ministry said one man was killed and two women injured yesterday when a Ukrainian shell hit a house in the town of Donetsk – a settlement on Russian territory that shares the name of a million-strong city in eastern Ukraine.
“The Russian side sees this provocation as the latest aggressive act from the Ukrainian side towards sovereign Russian territory and citizens of the Russian Federation, ” the ministry said.
“It must be underlined that this incident demonstrates the extremely dangerous escalation in tension around the Russian-Ukrainian border, and could have irreversible consequences, the responsibility for which rests with the Ukrainian side.”
Ukraine dismissed Russia’s claim as “nonsense” and blamed the rebels for firing over the border, but Moscow’s deputy foreign minister Grigory Karasin insisted that the incident marked a serious change in the crisis between the neighbours.
“This represents a qualitative escalation of the danger to our citizens, now even on our own territory. Of course this naturally cannot pass without a response,” he told Russian state television.
Yevgeny Bushmin, deputy speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament, went further, saying that the “only way to fight them…is to use precision weapons…to destroy those who launched that shell”. He compared such a move to measures used by the United States, European Union and Israel.
Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin has repeatedly vowed to defend people who feel Russian across the former Soviet Union and especially in Ukraine, which some of his senior officials have claimed is now run by Russophobic “fascists”.
Kiev accuses Moscow of helping separatist rebels who want eastern Ukraine to join Russia, and who have used advanced Russian-made weaponry in their struggle with numerically superior government forces.
Ukrainian officials claimed artillery fire struck a column of about 100 military vehicles and cars attempting to cross illegally into the country from Russia early yesterday. No casualty figures were released, but in other incidents around the Donetsk and Luhansk regions at the weekend over 20 people were reported killed.