Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk accused Russia on Friday of wanting to start World War Three by occupying Ukraine “militarily and politically”.
“The world has not yet forgotten World War Two, but Russia already wants to start World War Three,” Yatseniuk told the interim cabinet in remarks broadcast live. “Attempts at military conflict in Ukraine will lead to a military conflict in Europe.”
In some of the strongest language he has yet used in a war of words between the former Soviet neighbours, as both sides have deployed troops close to their frontier, Yatseniuk accused Moscow of acting like a “gangster” supporting “terrorists”. “It is clear that Russia’s goal is to wreck the election in Ukraine, remove the pro-Western and pro-Ukrainian government and occupy Ukraine politically as well as military,” added the premier.
More US sanctions
In related development, US President Barack Obama will press European allies on Friday to impose more sanctions if Russia steps up action in Ukraine, while a cut in its credit rating sent a strong reminder to Moscow of the economic consequences of its involvement in the crisis. Obama said he would seek to make sure key European leaders shared his view that Russia had failed to live up to the terms of a Ukraine peace accord in Geneva earlier this month, under which Russia, the United States, Ukraine and the European Union agreed to work to disarm illegal groups.
While Obama has ruled out sending US or Nato forces into Ukraine, Washington has begun deploying 600 US troops to boost Nato’s defences in nearby eastern European states.
Oil prices, which rocketed up on the tensions Thursday, fell back slightly on Friday. Stockmarkets remained nervous. “Both sides keep drawing red lines.... Traders are worried that someone ends up stepping over one of them,” said a London analyst, Jonathan Sudario of Capital Spreads. Russia, which supplies gas to Ukraine and to many EU countries, has said it can weather US sanctions but warned they would trigger a tit-for-tat cycle which no-one would win.