Kiev (CNN) — Ukrainian acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said Wednesday that the separatist protests in Ukraine’s eastern region would be resolved within 48 hours — either through negotiations or the use of force.
At the same time, Russia insisted that the presence of its troops just over the border was no reason to worry.
Using classified and commercial satellite imagery, the United States estimates there are up to 40,000 Russian troops on the border with eastern Ukraine. NATO has also warned of a major troop buildup.
The U.S. ambassador in Kiev, Geoffrey Pyatt, posted photos via Twitter on Wednesday to illustrate the U.S. estimates.
The photos depict what is supposedly a field outside the Russian city of Rostov — empty in October, filled with troops and armored vehicles on April 2.
Washington is sharing some information with the Ukrainians, but not highly classified intelligence, the official said. Ukraine was aligned with Moscow until a month ago, and it is believed Ukraine’s security services are still penetrated by the Russians, the official said.
Meanwhile, the separatist protests in eastern Ukraine have entered their fourth day.
Pro-Russian protesters seized government buildings in the cities of Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv on Sunday.
Rebels who occupied Donetsk’s regional government building a day later — declaring a “people’s republic” and calling for a referendum on secession from Ukraine to be held by May 11 — remained in control of the building Wednesday, holed up behind substantial makeshift barricades.
In Kharkiv, more than 70 people were detained Tuesday in what Ukrainian authorities said was an anti-terrorism operation, as security forces cleared a government building of protesters.
The 48-hour deadline set by Avakov to end the crisis may escalate the tensions in Ukraine’s eastern region.
“There are two opposite ways for resolving this conflict — a political dialogue and the heavy-handed approach. We are ready for both,” he said, according to official news agency Ukrinform.
On Tuesday, Moscow warned that any use of force to crack down on protests in the region, which borders Russia, could lead to civil war and called for “the immediate cessation of any military preparations.”
Full article: Ukraine unrest will be resolved by force or talks in 48 hours, minister says (CNN)