Ukraine is deploying troops in a “large-scale anti-terrorist operation” to resist attacks by armed pro-Russian forces, Ukraine’s President Oleksandr Turchynov said Sunday in a televised address.
The previous president, who fled to Russia after being ousted earlier this year, accused the CIA of being behind the decision.
Turchynov said the Ukrainian Security Council decided to use the army because “we’re not going to allow Russia to repeat the Crimean scenario in Ukraine’s east.” He pledged amnesty to anyone who lays down arms by this morning.
Speaking hours later on Russian state television, Viktor Yanukovych claimed that CIA director John Brennan had met with Ukraine’s new leadership and “in fact sanctioned the use of weapons and provoked bloodshed.”
The CIA flatly denied the accusation that Brennan was pulling the strings in Ukraine. CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said that while the agency doesn’t comment on Brennan’s travel itinerary, the “claim that director Brennan encouraged Ukrainian authorities to conduct tactical operations inside Ukraine is completely false.”
Yanukovych was ousted in February after months of protests in Kiev, the capital, that were ignited by his decision to back away from closer relations with the European Union and turn toward Russia. He fled to Russia, saying he feared for his life.
Ukraine now has “one foot into a civil war,” Yanukovych said Sunday. He was flanked by his former prosecutor general and interior minister, the two associates most despised by the Kiev protesters.
Ukrainian special forces exchanged gunfire with a pro-Russia militia outside an eastern city Sunday morning, with one security officer killed and five others wounded. It was the first reported gunbattle in eastern Ukraine, where armed pro-Russian men have seized a number of government buildings in recent days.