Pro-Russian activists beat up a policeman guarding the burnt trade union building in Odessa, Ukraine, on Saturday. (AFP)
Kiev, May 3 (Reuters): Ukraine’s security service said today that illegal military groups from Moldova’s breakaway region of Transdniestria and Russian groups worked together to foment unrest in the southern port city of Odessa.
“The unrest, which occurred on May 2 in Odessa and led to clashes and many casualties, was due to foreign interference,” a spokeswoman for the SBU security service told a news conference.
Kiev has long accused Russia of supporting uprisings in the south and east of Ukraine, and says pro-Russian forces in the Transdniestria region, just across the border, are helping their masters in Moscow to destabilise the situation.
Russia denies playing any role in Ukraine’s uprising, saying Russian-speaking citizens are simply protecting their rights from a pro-western government.
The security spokeswoman also accused former top officials, once part of ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich’s inner circle, of financing “saboteurs” to foment the unrest. She named Serhiy Arbuzov and Oleksander Klymenko.
Klymenko, former incomes minister and a close ally of Yanukovich, denied the allegation and called on Kiev to produce evidence. “I will tell you who is responsible: the blame for bloody Friday in Odessa lies entirely with the current government,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
Arbuzov could not be immediately reached for comment.
The EU called today for an independent investigation into the deaths of at least 42 people in southern Ukraine after a riot ended with dozens of pro-Russian protesters killed in a burning building.
The street battle between supporters and opponents of Russia in the Black Sea port of Odessa that ended in the deadly blaze in a besieged trade union building was by far the worst incident in Ukraine since a February uprising that ended with a pro-Russian President fleeing the country.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the EU was “deeply saddened by the many deaths and injured in yesterday’s events in Odessa”.
“The facts which led to this tragic loss of so many human lives must now be established in an independent investigation and those responsible for these criminal acts brought to justice,” she said. Ashton said the EU urged everyone to exercise restraint and not to exploit events in Odessa “to fuel more senseless violence”.
“All political forces must now assume their responsibility and engage in a peaceful and inclusive dialogue to find a joint way out of the crisis,” she said. EU leaders added their names to a G7 statement that accused Moscow of taking “no concrete actions” in support of the Geneva agreement between Ukraine, Russia, the US and the EU.