UKRAINE PARLIAMENT CALLS RUSSIA ‘AGGRESSOR STATE’, SEEKS MORE AID, SANCTIONS

Radio Free Europe on January 27, 2015, reported that Ukraine’s parliament has adopted a statement branding Russia an “aggressor state,” a move that deputies hope will pave the way for punishment under international law. Excerpts below:

The Verkhovna Rada also voted on January 27 to define separatist self-styled “people’s republics” in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as “terrorist organizations,” and to appeal to the international community for additional nonlethal military aid and stronger sanctions against Russia.

Radical Party leader Oleh Lyashko, a member of the governing coalition, said, “Legal recognition as an aggressor state entails consequences” under the UN Charter and UN resolutions.

Earlier on January 27, European Union leaders called on their foreign ministers to consider an appropriate response to the escalation of fighting in eastern Ukraine, including possible new sanctions, at their January 29 meeting in Brussels.

“In view of the worsening situation we ask the upcoming Foreign Affairs Council to assess the situation and to consider any appropriate action, in particular on further restrictive measures, aiming at a swift and comprehensive implementation of Minsk agreements,” the leaders said in a statement.

The 28-member bloc has imposed a series of economic and political sanctions on Russia and officials linked with Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea last March and its support for separatists fighting government forces in eastern Ukraine.

The statement also urged Russia to condemn separatists’ actions and to implement the September 2014 Minsk agreements, which include a cease-fire deal.

The EU leaders also condemned the killing of 30 civilians on January 24 through “the indiscriminate shelling of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol.”

The Mariupol attack came a day after a separatist leader said rebels would try to take more territory and would no longer seek peace talks with Kyiv.

Donbas is a term for the industrial portion of eastern Ukraine where the separatists hold parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, including their capitals.

The Ukrainian military spokesman Vladyslav Seleznyov said on January 27 that nine government soldiers were killed and 29 wounded by fighting in eastern Ukraine during the previous 24 hours.

Seleznyov told a briefing in Kyiv, “The situation remains tense. In the past 24 hours illegal armed groups carried out 120 attacks on government positions.”

He said that the fighting was the most intense near the strategic town of Debaltseve, located northeast of rebel-held Donetsk.

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