NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and European High Representative Catherine Ashton condemned the attacks on government buildings in east Ukraine by pro-Russian forces. Secretary of State John Kerry warned Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov of more consequences and the White House announced Vice President Joe Biden will visit Ukraine on April 22.
Rasmussen released this statement.
I am extremely concerned about the further escalation of tension in Eastern Ukraine. We see a concerted campaign of violence by pro-Russian separatists, aiming to destabilise Ukraine as a sovereign state. The reappearance of men with specialised Russian weapons and identical uniforms without insignia, as previously worn by Russian troops during Russia’s illegal and illegitimate seizure of Crimea, is a grave development.
Ashton said he is “gravely concerned.”
I am gravely concerned about the surge of actions undertaken by armed individuals and separatist groups in various cities of Eastern Ukraine, who have seized in the last 24 hours police stations and branches of the Ministry of Interior and erected check points around the city of Slavyansk. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission plays and must continue to play a crucial role in actively observing and reporting about these developments and thus contributing to prevent a further escalation of the situation.
Kerry spoke to Lavrov on the phone, which has almost become a daily occurrence since Russia invaded Crimea. Kerry told Lavrov the US is ready to pass more sanctions against Russia if they do not stop their aggression towards Ukraine.
Kerry during the call “expressed strong concern that attacks today by armed militants in eastern Ukraine were orchestrated and synchronized, similar to previous attacks in eastern Ukraine and Crimea,” said a senior State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Militants were equipped with specialized Russian weapons and the same uniforms as those worn by the Russian forces that invaded Crimea. The secretary made clear that if Russia did not take steps to de-escalate in eastern Ukraine and move its troops back from Ukraine’s border, there would be additional consequences,” the official added.
Biden will be the highest US official to visit Ukraine since the Euromaidan protests started in Kyiv in November. Senators, including Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), visited Kyiv before. McCain went twice. Biden visited Poland and the leaders of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia after Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine on March 21.