April 15 - Ukraine says its crackdown on pro-Russian separatists in the east is underway as all sides prepare for talks in Geneva later this week. Mana Rabiee reports.
A mob in Ukraine pelts a presidential candidate after his TV interview in the capitol Kiev. They're angry over remarks that suggested he supports a Russian intervention in the east of the country. That's where separatists in some ten different cities are at a standoff with the central government. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, OLEH TSARYOV, SAYING: "I did not ask for Russian troops to be sent in. I am categorically against this. I am against a third party interfering in the affairs of Ukraine. Until we learn to listen to each other, Ukraine will stand no chance." But listening is something the two sides haven't been doing very well. The separatists want a referendum to secede from Ukraine, much like Crimea did before its annexation to Russia last month. The government calls the protesters terrorists; their separatist frenzy fed by neighboring Moscow. It gave them a Tuesday deadline to lay down their arms or face force. Acting President Oleksander Turchinov. (SOUNDBITE) (Ukrainian) OLEKSANDER TURCHINOV, ACTING PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE, PARLIAMENT SPEAKER, SAYING: "Today, in the morning, an anti-terrorist operation has started in the east of Donetsk region. But it will be carried out in stages, responsibly and cautiously." Leading politician Vitaly Klitschko called Tuesday's operation a test of the new government's authority. (SOUNDBITE) (Ukrainian) HEAD OF "UDAR" PARTY ("PUNCH"), VITALY KLITSCHKO, SAYING: "We must use all force, including the armed forces of Ukraine if needed. All of us understand it. We are dealing with an invasion and must protect our state." Ministers of NATO countries met in Luxembourg Tuesday to discuss the crisis. NATO Secretary General Anders Rasmussen called on Russia to de-escalate the situation. This, as NATO sends forces into Eastern Europe to calm jitters among former Soviet republics. (SOUNDBITE) (English) NATO SECRETARY GENERAL ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN STEPPING FROM CAR, WALKING TO JOURNALISTS, SAYING: "We need to train and exercise more together, for instance, the NATO response force and the EU battle groups, so that we stand ready for whatever the future may bring." Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called on Kiev to hold back until talks scheduled in Geneva on Thursday. 'You can't send in tanks and at the same time hold talks', he said on a visit to China. But in Ukraine's eastern city of Donetsk, the protesters say uniting with Ukraine may be impossible now. They've barricaded themselves in a government building for more than a week. And few here recognize the government in Kiev that was formed in February. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) DONETSK RESIDENT, TAMARA, SAYING: "This is an artificially created country. Here comes the historical moment when it is clear that we can't live together. We crossed the line when we could still unite. At this point, I'm afraid, even a referendum won't help."