Ukraine Crisis: Russia's Lavrov Blames West For 'Fratricidal War'

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Russia’s foreign minister accused the West of pushing Ukraine into a "fratricidal war" on Wednesday after days of deadly clashes between pro-Moscow separatists and Kiev forces.

"The people (of Ukraine) are in essence being pushed into the abyss of fratricidal war," Russian news agencies quoted Sergei Lavrov as saying at a ministry reception attended by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, according to Reuters.

"The West tried to use Ukraine not as a uniting [point] on the European territory, but as a watershed" between East and West, Lavrov said, according to TASS.

Pro-Russian gunmen in Lenin square in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk on Sunday. Several thousand supporters cheered a convoy carrying several hundred heavily armed men and chanted "Heroes!"Vadim Ghirda / AP

Sunday's elections in Ukraine "should put an end to violence and serve as a start of dialogue," Lavrov was quoted as saying.

Russia has repeatedly held the West to blame for the unrest in Ukraine, which began last year when pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovich shunned a free trade deal with the European Union in favor a customs union with Moscow. His decision sparked street protests that culminated in his February ouster.

Interfax quoted Lavrov as saying Sunday's presidential election, won by candy magnate Petro Poroshenko, "should help foster an end to the punitive operation" — Russia's term for the government anti-separatist operation in eastern Ukraine.

There was an uneasy calm on the streets of the eastern Ukraine city of Donetsk on Wednesday after days of battles in which separatists seized control of the airport only to be driven back by Ukrainian forces.

Pro-Moscow gunmen have declared the city of a million people the capital of an independent Donetsk People's Republic. Separatists say as many as 50 people have been killed, and pictures of bodies were circulated on social media, but the claims could not immediately be verified.

Poroshenko repeated his promise to restore government control rapidly over secessionist-held areas. “We are in a state of war in the east. Crimea is occupied by Russia and there is great instability. We must react,” he told Germany's Bild newspaper.

On Tuesday, Ukraine accused Russian militia of smuggling a convoy of arms across the border as fierce battles continued between Kiev forces and pro-Moscow separatists in the city of Donetsk.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Alastair Jamieson