The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Top News

May 19, 2014

Putin orders troops near Ukraine to return home

(Continued)

MOSCOW —

The first round tables under the plan were held in Ukraine last week, but the government refused to invite representatives of rebels in the east, whom it dubbed "separatists" and "terrorists."

Even though the Russian Foreign Ministry has criticized the round tables for failing to include the government's foes, Putin welcomed them as an attempt to establish dialogue.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday also sounded warmer regarding the round tables, calling them a "step in the right direction."

Putin and Lavrov urged the Ukrainian authorities to immediately end a military operation in eastern Ukraine, where fighting continued on Monday. Pro-Russian insurgents fired on a Ukrainian army check-point near a television tower outside the eastern city of Slovyansk, killing one soldier and wounding three, Ukraine's defense ministry said.

AP journalists also witnessed mortar fire hitting the village of Andriyivka, just outside Slovyansk. While it was impossible to confirm who fired the mortars, the shelling appeared to come from the Ukrainian government troops' positions, damaging a gas main running across a field and onto local residents' lands. The pipeline caught fire, but no residents were hurt.

In Donetsk, the capital of one of the regions that pro-Russian insurgents declared independent last week, masked gunmen seized the office of the local branch of Ukrainian Railways and installed their man as its new chief. The company told The Associated Press the attackers disrupted the freight train traffic, leaving about 4,000 train cars stranded in the industrial region.

Amid the tensions, Ukraine and Russia traded accusations over two Russian journalists, who were arrested by Ukrainian forces near Slovyansk on Sunday.

The Ukrainian military said the two men, who had press accreditation with Life News, a Kremlin-connected TV channel, were with pro-Russian insurgents and were filming preparations for an attack outside Slovyansk. Russia has protested the arrest and asked the OSCE to assist their release.

OSCE media freedom representative, Dunja Mijatovic, urged Ukraine to release the journalists and also condemned other recent cases of harassment of journalists by conflicting parties in Ukraine.

___

Alexander Zemlianichhenko in Slovyansk, Ukraine, Nataliya Vasilyeva in Kiev, Yuras Karmanau in Donetsk and John-Thor Dahlburg in Brussels contributed to this report.

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