KIEV, May 6 (Xinhua) -- Ukraine sent a special force unit to the southern port of Odessa Monday to try and halt the fighting between government troops and pro-Russia militants.
Kiev said the force, based on "civil activists," would replace local police who had, according to Ukraine's Interior Ministry, failed to tackle rebel actions at the weekend.
More than 40 people were killed in Friday's clashes, the worst since pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovich fled to Moscow in February during protests by Ukrainians demanding closer ties to Europe. Many pro-Russia activists were killed when the building they had occupied was set on fire by petrol bombs.
The dispatch of the special force was seen as a signal that Kiev fears the situation in Odessa will escalate to a broader civil war while tackling rebellion in the east.
The loss of Odessa would be catastrophic for the new government in Kiev, leaving the country cut off from the Black Sea. Ukraine lost a significant part of its coastline in March, when its Crimean Peninsula voted to join Russia.
Meanwhile, Kiev has launched a fresh wave of "anti-terror" operations in the eastern city of Slavyansk earlier Monday to retake the city, which has been under the control of pro-Russian activists since unrest began in eastern Ukraine.
At least four Ukrainian servicemen were killed and some 30 were wounded during the operation, the Interior Ministry said.
An unspecified number of civilians were also killed and wounded during the unrest, but there were no immediate reports of casualties on the side of pro-Moscow protesters, the ministry said.
Pro-Russian rebels also shot down a Ukrainian military helicopter near Slavyansk, but the pilots survived, the defense ministry said.
Kiev and the West have blamed Moscow for inciting unrest and splitting Ukraine.
NATO's top military commander, General Philip Breedlove, said Monday he did not think regular Russian troops would enter eastern Ukraine, saying Moscow could achieve its goals through other means.
Breedlove told reporters in the Canadian capital of Ottawa that the most likely course of action was that Russian President Vladimir Putin "will continue doing what he's doing, discrediting the (Ukrainian) government, creating unrest, trying to set the stage for a separatist movement" to ensure Moscow maintained a hold in eastern Ukraine.
Russia, however, denied all the charges. The Russian foreign ministry called on Kiev to "stop the bloodshed, withdraw forces and finally sit down at the negotiating table." It also published a 81-page report on human rights violations in Ukraine, mainly targeting Kiev authorities and the West.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has presented a five-point plan to solve the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) reported Monday.
In an article for the FAZ, Steinmeier called on Ukraine, Russia, the United States and the European Union (EU) to meet again in Geneva and send on this occasion a "strong political message" that agreements reached at the first Geneva conference would actually be put into practice.
The minister wrote about the importance to ensure that the presidential election in Ukraine, slated for May 25, could be held properly, as this will allow the leadership in Kiev to "get new legitimacy."
All sides of the conflict should rapidly conduct negotiations on constitutional reform, which includes all parts of the country and aims to achieve national consensus, Steinmeier said. Also, all non-governmental groups should be disarmed and occupied public buildings vacated.
As another point of his plan, the minister also expressed hope that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) could play a key role in settling the crisis in Ukraine. The OSCE, he wrote, should provide help in establishing dialogue forums at all levels.
KIEV, May 5 (Xinhua) -- Ukrainian Acting President Alexandr Turchynov discussed the ongoing crisis in his country with German ChancellorAngela Merkelduring a telephone conversation on Monday, the presidential press-service said in a statement.
During the phone talk, the two leaders raised the issue of Ukraine's "anti-terror" operation in eastern regions aimed at dislodging pro-Russian activists, who have seized a number of government buildings there. Full story
BERLIN, May 4 (Xinhua) -- Given the escalating violence in Ukraine, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called for a second conference in Geneva to settle the Ukraine crisis, German television channel ARD reported on Sunday.
In the ARD report from Berlin, Steinmeier said: "I advocate that the first meeting in Geneva now should be followed by a second meeting in Geneva, during which clear appointments will be met on how to bring this conflict to a halt and how to lead the conflict to a political solution." Full story