The crisis in East Ukraine intensified on Monday following a new round of deadly clashes between the country’s troops and pro-Russian militants. In response, Ukraine’s Interior Minister, Arsen Avakov, said on Monday that a new special forces unit will be sent into Odessa -- the site of the recent violence.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arsenjy Yatsenyuk has blamed the government for the latest round of violence but has offered no indication that a compromise is on the horizon.
Four officers were killed and 30 injured in the city of Solvyansk, the Interior Ministry said on Monday, adding that government troops were facing approximately 800 insurgents. On Sunday, pro-Russian demonstrators stormed a police headquarters in Odessa, winning the release of 67 people who were detained after riots. And on Friday, nearly 50 people were killed in clashes and a fire in Odessa. Separatists began to occupy area in the eastern part of Ukraine last month after pro-Moscow, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich fled to Russia.
The separatists argue the new government is illegitimate because it was created after Yanukovich was illegally ousted.
The Associated Press reported there was continued gunfire and explosion in and nearby Slovyansk on Monday. Both sides have said fighting was continuing in several sites in the city.
Meanwhile, pro-Russian separatists called for an armed insurrection against the country’s Western backed government, according to NBC News. The Donetsk People’s Republic, which has taken control of parts of the state, urged supporters to use the “unconditional right of all the citizens to take up arms and to conduct a sacred war.”
Ukraine has blamed Russia for supporting the insurgents but has been unable to curb their aggression. There is a fear following Russia’s recent annexation of the Crimea region that Moscow could have their eye on more territory.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry over the weekend urged Russian officials to stop supporting the separatists. Pro-Russian rebels had recently released seven international military observers and five Ukrainians from the Defense Ministry being held hostage in Slovyansk for eight days. “It’s a step. But there are many other steps that have to be taken in order to be able to de-escalate the situation,” said Kerry.
NATO has estimated that there are approximately 40,000 Russian troops stationed near the Ukrainian border.