Reuters reports: Ukrainian forces killed up to five pro-Moscow rebels on Thursday as they closed in on the separatists’ military stronghold in the east, and Russia launched army drills near the border in response, raising fears its troops would invade.
The Ukrainian offensive amounts to the first time Kiev’s troops have used lethal force to recapture territory from the fighters, who have seized swaths of eastern Ukraine since April 6 and proclaimed an independent “People’s Republic of Donetsk.”
Ukraine’s acting president accused Moscow of supporting “terrorism at the state level” against his country for backing the rebels, whom the government blames for kidnapping and torturing a politician found dead on Saturday.
“The window to change course is closing,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned in a hastily arranged appearance in the State Department, where he cited President Barack Obama’s comments earlier on Thursday that Washington was ready to impose new sanctions if Moscow did not alter its policy.
In unusually blunt comments, Kerry accused Russia of using propaganda to hide what he said it was actually trying to do in eastern Ukraine – destabilize the region and undermine next month’s planned Ukrainian presidential elections. [Continue reading…]