Russia to Ukraine: Crackdown Could Mean Civil War

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What began as a debate in Ukraine's parliament over the country's future turned into a brawl Tuesday. Communists and nationalists fought over the events unfolding in the pro-Russian eastern region.

Russia is issuing a new warning to Ukraine's military: prepare for civil war if you crack down on pro-Russian protesters.

Tens of thousands of Russian troops remain on Ukraine's eastern border. They've been there since Russia moved into Crimea and annexed the region several weeks ago.

Is Ukraine on the brink of civil war? CBN News Senior International Reporter George Thomas answered that question and more on CBN Newswatch, April 8.

On Tuesday, police had to clear some such protests from public building in eastern Ukraine. The protesters were barricading themselves, demanding a vote on whether to split and join Russia.

The demonstrators in Kharkiv used guns and hand grenades to fight police, and they set fires outside a security center.

The Ukrainian government accused Russia of stirring up the unrest and tried to flush the assailants from some of the seized buildings, setting off fiery clashes in one city.

Ukraine Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said protesters who seized the regional administration building in the country's second largest city have been driven out.

On his Facebook page, Avakov said an "anti-terrorist operation" was launched in the city of Kharkiv Tuesday that included police and soldiers.
    
Meanwhile, the United States is warning Russia of more sanctions if it moves troops into eastern Ukraine.

"If Russia moves into eastern Ukraine, either overtly or covertly, this would be a very serious escalation. We call on President Putin and his government to cease all efforts to destabilize Ukraine. And we caution against further military intervention,"  White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

But Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., strongly criticized the White House for its refusal to give military help to Ukraine. He said the pro-Russian demonstrations appeared to be right out of Russian President Vladimir Putin's playbook.

"By withholding military assistance, the administration may think it is reducing the risk of further conflict. In fact, the opposite may be true. The decision will appear to Putin as yet another sign of weakness, which may only invite further aggression," McCain wrote in a statement.

The pro-Russian protests may have been quelled in some cities, but not in others like Lohansk, where the occupation of buildings continues.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's security forces are doing the best they can to keep order as they wait for Putin's next move.

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