Interim Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov announced the resumption of a military operation in the country's east aimed at retaking occupied government buildings from pro-Russia separatists. The decision came after a local politician's body had been found "brutually tortured" in the same region.
The anti-terrorism measures would be carried in order to "protect Ukrainian citizens in the east," Turchynov said, according to a statement released by his office.
Reuters news agency identified the politician as Volodymyr Rybak, a member of the Ukrainian president's Batkivshchyna party. He had been kidnapped prior to his murder.
A second individual had also been found dead. It was not immediately clear if the second victim was also a poiltican.
"These crimes are being carried out with the full support and indulgence of the Russian Federation," Turchynov said.
On Saturday, the interim government in Kyiv announced it would halt its mission to recapture occupied buildings in eastern Ukraine from Russian separatists. The decision had been made in observance of the Easter holidays, as well as the Geneva agreement. Tensions rose again within hours of the brief "ceasefire" after gunmen carried out a deadly raid on a mllitary checkpoint.
Ukrainian aircraft hit
Less than hour before the news of the political murder spread through the media, Ukraine's defense ministry confirmed that a military aircraft had been hit by small arms fire.
On Tuesday, a military Antonov An-30 reconnaissance plane had been shot and damaged while flying over the city of Slovyansk. No one was injured in the incident.
"Thanks to the professional actions, military pilots managed to land the plane at the airfield without consequences," according to a defense ministry statement. "After a thorough examination and diagnosis, aircraft combat capability was full restored."
Tensions in the eastern Ukrainian city have sparked clashes between Pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian authorities in recent days. The Moscow supporters, which are calling for secession from Ukraine in favor of annexation by the Russian Federation, have also taken control of the city government.
The attack on Tuesday came just hours after US Vice President Joe Biden addressed Ukrainian lawmakers in Kyiv during his diplomatic visit. He pledged both financial and political support, while warning the interim government to "fight the cancer of corruption that is endemic in your system right now."
US to send troops to Poland, Baltic states
In response to the escalating crisis in Ukraine, the Pentagon announced on Tuesday that it would deploy 600 soldiers to neighboring NATO member states in eastern Europe. There, they will participate in military exercises for several months.
"The United States takes seriously our obligations under Article 5 of the NATO alliance, even though these aren't NATO exercises," US Defense Department spokesperson Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters.
The troops are to be sent to Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia before the end of the week.
kms/jlw (AP, AFP, Reuters)