KIEV (REUTERS) - The United States ambassador to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said Russia had amassed tens of thousands of troops near the border with Ukraine and called on Moscow to take steps to de-escalate the situation.
"We have strong evidence that there are tens of thousands of forces on the border and again not in their normal peacetime positions or garrisons," Mr Daniel Baer told reporters after an emergency meeting of the 57-member OSCE on Monday to discuss the issue. The Russian delegation did not address the meeting, Mr Baer and other diplomats said.
"What the Russian Federation should be doing is taking steps to de-escalate the crisis. They have played a principal role in the crisis and there are clear practical steps they can take to de-escalate," including engaging with the international community and allowing inspections of troop movements, he said.
Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said in Kiev that protests in eastern Ukraine in which pro-Russian activists seized public buildings in three cities are part of a plan to destabilise Ukraine and bring in Russian troops who were in a zone less than 30km from the border. The separatist action shows a "second stage" of special operations by Russia is under way aimed at breaking up Ukraine, he added on Monday.
Mr Oleksander Turchinov, in a televised appeal to the people, said the action in three cities of eastern Ukraine - Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk - showed that the enemies of Ukraine were"playing out the Crimean scenario" - a reference to the pro-Russian takeover of the peninsula and its annexation by Russia.
"We will not allow this," he said.
Warning that some separatist activists had taken up arms, Mr Turchinov said: "Anti-terrorist measures will be carried out against those who had taken up weapons."