Ukrainian troops defy pro-Russian separatists and take control of an air base in the eastern city of Kramatorsk.
Airborne troops have landed at an airport in the eastern city of Kramatorsk as Ukraine launches an “anti-terrorist operation” against pro-Russian separatists.
Shots rang out from inside the air base after Ukrainian troops disembarked from two military helicopters.
Ukraine’s Interim President Oleksandr Turchynov says troops have taken control of the facility.
Reuters reported that the troops withdrew into barracks at the airport following a “scuffle” with several hundred pro-Russian protesters.
Russian news reports initially said up to 11 people were in clashes at the base, however Ukraine’s defense ministry says none of its troops were killed or injured.
The Ukrainian state security service announced that a similar operation was launched in the town of Slaviansk, some 12 miles away.
The two cities are among 10 locations in the Russian-speaking east where separatist rebellions have broken out.
Video footage emerged on Tuesday of a group of separatists stopping a Ukrainian tank and questioning its crew near the village of Rodinskoye.
Mr Turchynov has accused Russia of harboring “brutal plans” to destabilize the region by backing separatists and refusing to force them to stand down.
“The plans of the Russian Federation were and remain brutal,” he said.
“They want not only for Donbass (Donetsk region), but for the whole south and east of Ukraine to be engulfed by fire.”
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Ukraine was on the verge of civil war.
“I will be brief: Ukraine is on the brink of civil war, it’s frightening,” he said.
The White House is “seriously considering” new sanctions against Russia and says its supports Ukrainian efforts to restore law and order in the country’s east.
“The Ukrainian government has the responsibility to provide law and order and these provocations in eastern Ukraine are creating a situation in which the government has to respond,” spokesman Jay Carney said.
He added that the Washington continues to plan to participate in talks scheduled for Thursday between the Russian and Ukrainian governments, the US and the European Union, Mr. Carney added.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has welcomed the talks, but said any Ukrainian military action in the east could jeopardize the negotiations.
“You can’t send in tanks and at the same time hold talks, and the use of force would sabotage the opportunity offered by the four-party negotiations in Geneva,” he said.
Meanwhile, two pro-Russian politicians have been attacked by pro-Western activists as tensions remain high.
Oleh Tsaryov, a candidate in the presidential elections on May 25, was pelted with eggs and beaten as he left a TV studio in Kiev on Tuesday.
Mikhaylo Dobkin, another Russian-leaning politician, was sprayed with a green disinfectant on Monday night.