KIEV: Ukraine’s security service said yesterday that it had arrested 15 men for allegedly plotting to stage an armed revolt in an eastern region neighbouring Russia.
It added it had also seized 300 machineguns, a rocket launcher and numerous grenades from the suspected coup plotter. The Ukrainian Security Service said the men planned to seize the administration building in the Lugansk region on Thursday, “frighten the local population, and use arms and explosives”.
The security agency provided no other details and did not reveal any political affiliation of the suspects. The heavily Russified eastern regions of Ukraine have been hit by protests since last month’s overthrow in Kiev of a pro-Kremlin regime by leaders who are seeking a closer alliance with the West.
Some eastern regions have also sought to stage their own independence referendums similar to the one that resulted in Crimea recently being annexed by Russia.
Earlier, European Union foreign ministers tried to map out a new strategy towards Russia at talks in Athens yesterday, pledging to keep a tough stance over its tensions with Ukraine, while steering clear of provoking Moscow into further conflict.
Since Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, the European Union has imposed sanctions against the closest allies of President Vladimir Putin, and Group of Seven governments have suspended top-level contacts with Russia.
Further sanctions are being prepared in case the conflict escalates. But in the near term, the EU’s 28 governments will have to balance the need to preserve stability to east of the bloc, while strengthening ties with former Soviet republics, a process that has drawn ire from Moscow.