(Reuters / Shamil Zhumatov)
Ukraine's interim government has asked the United Nations to send peacekeeping troops in an effort to confront pro-Russian separatists who have gained an increasing amount of control in the country's eastern regions in recent days.
Separatists ignored the Monday deadline set by Ukraine's government to disband and in Donetsk, rebels announced their intention to "seize control of infrastructure and the levers of state power."
A group of Donetsk separatists have already declared the region the "People's Republic of Donetsk" and, following on the lead of fellow city Slaviansk, called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to send troops into the region if the Ukraine government should confront them with military force.
Tensions have continued to rise on Monday, with nearly 100 pro-Russian separatists mobbing a police station in Horlivka.
Almost one-third of the country's population lives in Eastern Ukraine and the majority of residents speak Russian. Just eight days ago, rebels began organizing and demanding referendums in their regions to allow them, like Crimea last month, to be annexed to Russia.
Acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, has attempted to engage in diplomacy with the separatists, and on Monday "reiterated offers of concessions to grant more local autonomy in the east," according to The New York Times.
On Monday, Turchynov discussed the situation in Eastern Ukraine with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, inquiring about the possibility of sending peacekeeping troops to the region; an idea which will likely go nowhere as it would require the authorization of the U.N. Security Council, where Russia would almost certainly use its power of veto to block any such move.
As stated on his presidential website, Turchynov also informed Ban that he believes Russia has the same intentions for eastern Ukraine as it had for Crimea, a claim which the Putin government denies. Unlike Crimea, where polls suggested an overwhelmingly number of residents backed separatist movements, the Ukrainian government believes that in the east "the majority of people do not want to support separatists."
"The Russian Federation sends special units to the east of our country that conduct armed seizure of the administrative buildings and threaten the lives of hundreds of thousands of our citizens," Mr. Turchynov told Ban.
A spokesperson for the Putin administration said that he had been observing the actions of the pro-Russian separatists and their calls to him to aid their cause closely.
"Unfortunately, there's a great many such appeals coming from the Eastern Ukrainian regions addressed directly to Putin to intervene in this or that form," spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. "The president is watching the developments in Eastern Ukraine with great concern."
While the current uprising in Eastern Ukraine has been in motion for little more than a week, the groups have increasingly been amassing weapons and taking control of administrative buildings with such efficiency that it has left most observers to suggest that Russia is actively behind the movement.
"I don't think denials of Russian involvement have a shred of credibility," British Foreign Minister William Hague said before a meeting with E.U. counterparts.
Thus far, U.S. and E.U. sanctions have done little to discourage Russia, as stiffer penalties are likely to have negative economic repercussions for the countries themselves.