Europe

Leave Ukraine in peace, John Kerry urges Russia

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Media captionThe BBC's David Stern said it was the city's second building to be taken over

The US has urged Russia to "leave Ukraine in peace" and warned that "every inch" of territory in neighbouring Nato states would be defended if threatened.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said that Russia had failed to abide by the terms of a de-escalation agreement.

Russia's President Putin insisted that his country had no troops in Ukraine.

The comments came after pro-Russia activists stormed several more buildings in eastern Ukraine.

Mr Kerry said that Russia had "escalated the crisis" since signing the de-escalation agreement last month.

"Not one single step has been taken by Russia in any public way that seriously attempts to live by the spirit or the law of what was signed in that agreement" he said.

He went on to say that Nato was facing a "defining moment" in the strength of its alliance in the face of Russian actions.

Moscow has said it has no intention of invading eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russia activists have seized government buildings in more than a dozen towns and cities.

"I solemnly declare that there are no Russian instructors there, nor any special forces there, nor troops," said Mr Putin.

Mr Putin also warned that new EU and US sanctions against Russia could impact on the work of Western energy firms.

"If this continues, we will of course have to think about how (foreign companies) work in the Russian Federation, including in key sectors of the Russian economy such as energy," he said.

In Kiev on Tuesday, activists mourning those who died in protests against the then pro-Moscow government earlier this year took part in a torch-lit ceremony.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Pro-Russia activists opened fire on Luhansk's police headquarters to force officers to surrender
Image copyright AP
Image caption Earlier, men armed with sticks and metal bars stormed the regional administration's headquarters
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A small group broke windows to gain access to the building, which was not protected
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Once inside, they opened the building's main entrance to allow in demonstrators gathered outside

They clashed with members of a far-right movement who also tried to join the march.

Sanctions

Eastern Ukraine, which has a large Russian-speaking population, was a stronghold for former President Viktor Yanukovych before he was overthrown by protesters in February.

The interim government has rejected the pro-Russian activists' demands for greater autonomy, fearing they could lead to the break-up of the country or more regions being annexed by Russia, as happened with Crimea last month.

Pro-Russian activists continue to detain some 40 people, including seven military observers linked to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) seized last week.

On Tuesday evening, the self-styled "mayor" of the town of Sloviansk, where the observers are being held, said "good progress" had been made at talks with OSCE representatives.

Vyacheslav Ponomaryov had earlier warned that they would only be released if the EU dropped its sanctions against separatist leaders.

Earlier, the EU published a fresh list of 15 individuals facing travel bans and asset freezes.

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Media captionSloviansk resident: "I think that it should end in a peaceful way"

It included the chief of the Russian General Staff, the head of Russian military intelligence, and a Russian deputy prime minister, as well as separatist leaders in Crimea, Luhansk and Donetsk.

On Monday, the US announced sanctions against seven individuals and 17 companies it said were linked to President Putin's "inner circle".

Name Position Sanctioned by
Putin's 'inner circle'
Gennady Timchenko Founder of Gunvor (oil and energy market trading) US
Arkady Rotenberg and Boris Rotenberg Co-owners of SMP Bank and SGM Group US
Yuri Kovalchuk Largest single shareholder of Bank Rossiya US
Igor Sechin Head of Rosneft (petroleum company) US
Government officials
Sergei Ivanov Chief of staff for Presidential Executive Office US
Oleg Belaventsev Russian presidential envoy to Crimea US and EU
Vladimir Yakunin Chairman of Russian Railways US
Igor Sergun Director of GRU US and EU
Valery Gerasimov Chief of General Staff of Russian Armed Forces EU
Vladimir Kozhin Head of administration US
Viktor Ivanov Director of Federal Drug Control Service US
Sergei Naryshkin Speaker of the lower house of parliament US and EU
Vladislav Surkov Presidential aide and election adviser US and EU
Dmitry Rogozin Deputy Prime Minister US and EU
Sergei Glazyev Adviser on Ukraine policy US and EU
Sergei Mironov Member of Russian Parliament US
Dmitry Kozak Deputy Prime Minister US and EU
Ludmila Shvetsova Deputy Chair State Duma EU
Sergei Chemezov Director of Rostec (state high-technologies division) US
Others
Bank Rossiya Russian bank US
Dmitry Kiselyov State television news anchor EU

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