‘Bloody massacre’ if Russia invades Ukraine, minister warns

Yuriy Boiko says Moscow’s aggressive policy has caused an explosion of feeling in its eastern neighbour Ukraine’s defense minister has warned there will be a “bloody massacre” in his country if Russia invades and…

'Bloody massacre' if Russia invades Ukraine, minister warns

Yuriy Boiko says Moscow’s aggressive policy has caused an explosion of feeling in its eastern neighbour

Ukraine’s defense minister has warned there will be a “bloody massacre” in his country if Russia invades and urged the west to protect Ukraine’s sovereignty.

Yuriy Boiko’s warning on Monday came as US secretary of state Mike Pompeo arrived in Kiev for talks aimed at pressing Ukraine to release detained Americans and to consider territorial compromises in its tense standoff with Russia over Crimea.

A bloody conflict has been raging between Russian-backed separatists and Ukraine’s troops since 2014, with Kiev saying Moscow has organised hundreds of artillery attacks on the Ukrainian military, killing dozens.

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“There are [Russian] tanks deployed in Belarus and there is a potential invasion of Ukraine,” Boiko told reporters. “It is really critical to make a decision to protect our country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, for which there will be a bloody massacre in Ukraine.”

Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea in 2014, an act that prompted the EU and US to impose economic sanctions on Moscow.

Washington has also sharply criticised Ukraine’s military operation in the eastern part of the country, where it is seeking to defeat Russian-backed separatists in a conflict that has left at least 10,000 people dead.

The buildup of Russian military hardware in Belarus and a call by the Kremlin for its president, Vladimir Putin, to expand his military in the former Soviet republic alarmed Kiev, which responded with artillery attacks on Russian-backed positions.

Pompeo said Washington was taking a closer look at whether Ukraine should be added to a list of states subjected to sanctions because of the use of illegal weapons.

“It’s an area that we have actively been pursuing in the past, but we are going to work with the Ukrainian government to examine what the status of sanctions of Ukraine would be if they continue to be used in violation of the sovereignty of Ukraine,” he said.

He said the US believes sanctions against Russia could be lifted if it accepted Western demands for removing its troops and military equipment from Ukrainian territory.

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The UN human rights office says nearly 3,700 people have been killed in the conflict, which has displaced about a million people. The Ukrainian government says Russia has killed 1,400 Ukrainian soldiers and civilians.

On Sunday, security forces captured a highway linking the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, which are under the control of pro-Russian separatists.

“We think this is a breakthrough,” said Janis Sarts, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Now Ukraine has reached a de facto border without being able to hold it. I think Russia will attempt to break it down immediately.”

Sarts said blocking the road could compel separatists to consolidate their territory on the eastern banks of the main river in order to control routes from Russia through the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk to Russian military bases near the village of Besnice, and further on to Crimea.

In a report last week, Amnesty International said the military campaign in the eastern Donbass region has been at a “crisis point” since at least 1 August, when Kiev banned the Russian media from covering events in the region and the Ukrainian government banned international journalists from travelling to Donetsk and Luhansk.

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