Russia has 'no troops or spies' in east Ukraine: official
MOSCOW - Agence France-Presse
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks in Moscow. AFP PhotoRussia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday denied that Moscow had sent any soldiers or security agents to Ukraine's eastern regions where a separatist movement has demanded independence from Kiev.
"We are accused of having security agents there. They are not there," Lavrov was quoted by the RIA Novosti news agency as saying on state television.
"We have no troops there by definition," he added. "We don't have our soldiers there, and we don't have our agents there."
"There are Russian citizens there. But that is not surprising, since on the Maidan there were all kinds of people," he said, referring to the Independence Square that was the locus of mass protests that brought down the pro-Russian government in Kiev earlier this year.
The new government in Kiev has accused Moscow of stirring unrest in its predominantly Russian-speaking regions to the east, including the towns of Donetsk and Lugansk where pro-Russian protesters have occupied government buildings and are demanding independence.
Ukraine's security service (SBU) said on Wednesday it had detained a 22-year-old Russian female spy carrying a weapon who was suspected of carrying out sabotage on the orders of the Russian security service in the southern city of Mykolay
Rising anti-Russia sentiment threatens Europe stability
Lavrov on warned that European stability was being threatened by rising anti-Russian sentiment over the Ukraine crisis.
"The current inflaming of anti-Russian sentiments takes place against the background of a spike of racism and xenophobia in many European countries, an increase in the number of ultra-radical groups and turning a blind eye to neo-Nazi phenomena, whether in Ukraine or elsewhere," he said.
Russia's top diplomat, quoted by the state RIA Novosti news agency, added that this "carries an obvious threat to European stability."
Lavrov spoke after US President Barack Obama threatened a third round of sanctions against Moscow if it escalates tensions over Ukraine, whose government it does not recognise.
Washington has already imposed targeted sanctions on some of Russian President Vladimir Putin's closest allies over Moscow's takeover of Ukraine's Russian-speaking peninsula of Crimea last month.
Speaking at a meeting with Russian non-governmental organisations, Lavrov said attempts to "legitimise the Maidan government at any cost" should be stopped in order to deescalate the crisis in Ukraine.
A pro-Western popular uprising often called the Maidan after the name of Kiev's central square in February ousted Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovych, who has since taken refuge in Russia.
Moscow does not recognise the new authorities in Kiev, accusing them of supporting neo-Nazis and pursuing anti-Russian policies.
Late Thursday, the Russian foreign ministry formally warned Russians against travelling to countries which have an extradition treaty with the United States.
The ministry said that the introduction of US sanctions meant that there was now a higher risk that Russians who face legal claims in the United States could be detained or arrested in other foreign countries.