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Russian ambassador blames Ukraine militia for violence, denies takeover plans

Ukraine_checkpoint.jpg

April 20, 2014: Residents look at burnt cars near a checkpoint that was the scene of a gunfight overnight near the city of Slaviansk, Ukraine. (REUTERS)

The Russian ambassador to Ukraine on Sunday denied that his country is on a military march into Eastern Europe and surrounding regions and blamed militia groups for the recent violence in Ukraine.

“We are not going anywhere,” Ambassador Sergey Kislyak told “Fox News Sunday.”

Kislyak made his remark as thousands of Russian troops occupy eastern Ukraine and several weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea, the eastern peninsula of Ukraine.

Ukraine has been wracked with political turmoil and violence for several months, with residents in February ousting their Moscow-backed president.

A United Nations-backed truce reached late last week between the Kiev government and pro-Russian troops was broken Sunday morning with a shootout at a checkpoint manned by pro-Russia insurgents in eastern Ukraine that left one person dead and others hospitalized with gunshot wounds.

The identity of the attackers remained unclear. Russia blamed militant Ukrainian nationalists and the Ukrainian government said the attack near the city of Slovyansk was staged by provocateurs from outside the country.

The armed clash appeared to be the first since an international agreement was reached in Geneva to ease tensions in eastern Ukraine, where armed pro-Russia activists have seized government buildings in at least 10 cities.

Kislyak repeatedly told Fox News that peace in that region cannot be achieved until “all” militia groups drop their weapons.

He also attempted to downplay President Obama’s vow last week that additional economic sanctions will be imposed if Putin forces continue to fuel the unrest in Eastern Europe.

“We can withstand the pressures,” said Kislyak, suggesting the United States had returned to a Cold War mentality that has no place in the 21st century.