United Nations: As the Security Council convened its second urgent session this week on the situation in Ukraine, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reiterated his grave concern over the rising tensions in the eastern and southern parts of the former Soviet republic, stressing that a "diplomatic solution is the only way out of this crisis".
The situation has been deteriorating in Ukraine`s crisis-hit city of Slovyansk, where two Ukrainian military helicopters were shot down overnight and a group of European observers captured April 26 remain in detention.
The emergency session of the UN Security Council was convened Friday at the request of Russia, with Vitaly Churkin, the country`s permanent representative to the UN, demanding a "swift halt of all violence" in eastern Ukraine, Xinhua reported.
Alexander Pavlichenko, the deputy Ukrainian permanent representative to the UN, told the council that his country rejected all attempts by Russia to blame it for not implementing the Geneva agreement reached April 17 by senior diplomats from Russia, Ukraine, the European Union (EU) and the US to de-escalate the situation in eastern Ukraine.
A new wave of unrest erupted in eastern Ukraine early in April, when pro-Moscow activists seized government buildings in the cities of Donetsk, Lugansk and Kharkov.
Kiev has repeatedly blamed Moscow for inciting the unrest and splitting Ukraine. Russia denies the charges.
Briefing the Security Council on the "severe deterioration" in Ukraine`s eastern and southern regions, Jeffrey Feltman, the UN under-secretary-general for political affairs, read out a statement in which the secretary-general said the escalating violence and reported further loss of life in Slovyansk, occupied by armed separatist insurgents since April 12, "is a stark reminder of how dangerous the situation has become".
Ban, in a statement issued here by his spokesman, urged all sides to exercise "maximum restraint" and appealed to those with grievances to voice them peacefully, so as to avoid more bloodshed. The secretary-general also called for all parties to respect fully Ukraine`s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
He also stressed that a diplomatic solution was the only way out of the crisis and that all sides "must redouble their efforts to revive the spirit of compromise displayed during the April 17 Geneva talks" between Ukraine, Russia, the US and the EU, at which an accord was reached on a series of steps to de-escalate tensions in eastern Ukraine, reportedly including demobilising militias and vacating seized government buildings.
Ban also announced that Feltman would travel to Kiev and Moscow next week. Feltman is expected to meet with senior officials and international partners to promote de-escalation and reiterate the secretary-general`s strong message that "all actors need to exercise utmost caution to prevent the extremely fragile situation from spinning out of control".
In more than a dozen other cities in Donetsk Oblast and Luhansk, an increasing number of buildings are being held by armed groups.
As for the situation in the eastern city of Slovyansk, Feltman explained that the city of 125,000 in Donetsk Oblast has been occupied by armed insurgents since April 12.
During the ongoing operations by the authorities, according to Ukraine`s defence ministry, two helicopters were shot down overnight with at least one pilot killed. A number of other casualties have also been reported on the ground, on both sides.
Also, the seven military observers under the auspices of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and accompanying Ukrainian military staff being held by gunmen in Slovyansk remain in detention.
To this end, he noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin has dispatched a special presidential envoy to assist in the freeing of the hostages.
"I reiterate the secretary-general`s call to those responsible for their abduction to release them immediately, unconditionally and unharmed," said Feltman, who warned the crisis has also escalated in the Donetsk Oblast and in Donetsk itself, where self-declared separatists had seized the regional prosecutor`s office Thursday.
While addressing the meeting of the 15-nation Security Council, Feltman said he would continue to reiterate the secretary-general`s message of restraint and immediate return to dialogue, including direct and constructive dialogue between Moscow and Kiev when he is to meet with regional players next week.