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Russia warns against use of force in eastern Ukraine, says it could lead to civil war

After pro-Russian activists stormed government buildings in eastern Ukraine, the US has warned Russia that any further efforts to destabilise the ex-Soviet bloc would invite repercussions.

Russia has in turn warned Kiev that any use of force in Ukraine’s eastern regions, could plunge the country into civil war.

“We are calling for the immediate cessation of any military preparations, which could lead to civil war,” Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.

Russia further expressed concern over a possible crackdown on pro-Russian supporters in eastern Ukrainian cities. Russia further blamed that there were “American experts from the private military organization Greystone,” in the disguise of soldiers, along with militants from the Ukrainian far-right group Right Sector, and Ukrainian forces, who were gearing up for a crackdown against the pro-Russian activists.

Earlier, Russia reacted saying it was closely monitoring the events in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv regions, but rubbished the accusations of Russia being behind the unrest.

“Stop pointing to Russia, blaming it for all of the troubles of today’s Ukraine,” said the statement issued by Russian foreign ministry.

The warning for Russia came as US Secretary of State John Kerry called up his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and told him to “publicly disavow the activities of separatists, saboteurs and provocateurs”.

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that Kerry in the phone call warned Russia of costs in case it continued further efforts to destabilise Ukraine.

Reacting to the warning, Lavrov sought to defend Moscow in a Guardian article titled, “It’s not Russia that is destabilising Ukraine”.

Further mocking the warning issued by the US and NATO members, Lavrov wrote in the article, “The world of today is not a junior school where teachers assign punishments at will. Belligerent statements such as those heard at the Nato foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on 1 April do not match demands for a de-escalation”.

“It is time to stop the groundless whipping-up of tension, and to return to serious common work,” he said.

Kerry’s warning came a day after pro-Russian separatists had occupied the government buildings in three eastern Ukraine cities of Donetsk, Kharkiv and Luhansk on Sunday night.

In Donetsk, the separatists on Monday claimed the region as “people’s republic” and declared a referendum call for secession from Ukraine on 11 May.

Crimea, the Black Sea Peninsula has undergone a similar referendum on March 16, and has now been annexed by Russia.

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