Ukraine separatists 'call up 100,000 troops'
The leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic has announced the mobilization of 100,000 separatist troops, a day after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry raised the possibility of the U.S. arming Ukrainian forces.

Alexander Zakharchenko's comments on Monday came as a Russian MP told the Duma that a New York Times article - which reported comments by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that Washington was considering the possibility of the U.S. supplying arms to Ukraine - was a deliberate "leak" by the U.S. administration.

Zakharchenko told the Russian press in Donetsk: "The DNR is planning a general mobilization within 10 days. 100,000 men will be called up."

Shortly after his press conference, Franz Klintsevich, a member of the Russian Duma's Defense Committee, told Russian reporters that he considered Kerry's comments in the New York Times to be a deliberate provocation by U.S. President Barack Obama's administration.

"I think it's leaked information, a sort of a trial balloon. The United States, of course, are primarily interested in the reaction of Russia," Klintsevich said.

US 'contractors' rumor

While the U.S. and other NATO countries have accused Russia of supplying arms, material and men to support the separatist uprising in southeast Ukraine, they have so far officially limited their support for the Ukrainian army to "non-lethal" items such as medical supplies and night-vision goggles.

But rumors and reports of privately contracted U.S. troops operating in eastern Ukraine have been growing in the region and on social media.

The developments came a day after the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe stated in a report released on Sunday that key pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk and Lugansk who had signed the Minsk cease-fire deal last September had elected not to attend talks last Saturday aimed at security a truce, despite being invited.

Instead, representatives from the regions who were "not in a position to discuss the proposal put forward by the TCG" attended the meeting, which was then adjourned without result, according to the report.

Ceasefire call

It stated: "In fact, they were not even prepared to discuss implementation of a ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy weapons."

"Instead, they called for revision of the (Minsk) Protocol and Memorandum."

The report ended with a call for all participants in the Minsk peace process to "engage responsibly in the comprehensive implementation of the Minsk documents with no further delays".

The Minsk protocol and an additional memorandum were signed by the conflicting parties on Sept. 5 and 19 respectively last year.

The agreement called for an immediate ceasefire and the removal of heavy weapons from the line of contact between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatist forces.
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Last Modified: 2015-02-03 10:15:15
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