A pro-Russia activist waves a picture of Stalin as he tries to disrupt presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko’s campaign rally in Donetsk. (AFP)
April 22: Ukrain’s acting President called for the relaunch of an anti-terrorist operation in the east of the country today after the body of a local politician from his own party was found showing signs of torture.
Oleksander Turchynov said in a statement that “brutally tortured” bodies had been found near the city of Slaviansk. One was that of Volodymyr Rybak, a member of Turchynov’s Batkivshchyna party, who had recently been abducted by “terrorists”.
“These crimes are being carried out with the full support and indulgence of the Russian Federation,” he said. “I call on the security agencies to relaunch and carry out effective anti-terrorist measures, with the aim of protecting Ukrainian citizens living in eastern Ukraine from terrorists.”
The defence ministry earlier stated a Ukrainian military surveillance plane was hit and damaged by small arms fire as it was on a reconnaissance flight over the rebel-held eastern town of Slaviansk.
The plane, a propellor-driven Antonov An-30, safely made an emergency landing, a ministry spokesman told AFP. None of its crew members was hurt.
“Thanks to the professional actions, military pilots managed to land the plane at the airfield without consequences,” the ministry said in a statement. “After a thorough examination and diagnosis, aircraft combat capability was fully restored.”
The attack occurred just hours after US Vice-President Joe Biden left Ukraine’s capital at the end of a two-day visit pledging Washington’s support to Kiev’s fledgling leaders.
The Ukrainian government and the US see Russia as fuelling the separatist crisis, pushing East-West relations to their most critical point since the Cold War.
Pro-Kremlin rebels holding Slaviansk and a string of other eastern towns are ignoring a Geneva agreement between the Ukraine, Russia and the West to lay down their weapons and surrender occupied public buildings.
Earlier today, Biden called on Moscow to pull back troops built up on Ukraine’s borders and to “stop talking and start acting” on getting Russian separatists who have seized control in eastern towns and cities to disarm.
The US has repeatedly warned Russia it faces “mounting costs” if it fails to ensure full implementation of an international agreement struck last week on calming the crisis.