East Ukraine 'Lawlessness' Condemned By Russian Foreign Ministry

Russian Foreign Ministry Condemns 'Lawlessness' In Eastern Ukraine

MOSCOW, March 10 (Reuters) - Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Monday it was outraged by lawlessness in eastern Ukraine, and accused the far-right paramilitary movement Right Sector of "conniving" with the new government in Kiev.

Ukraine denied the allegation, and dismissed as untrue Moscow's accusations of misdeeds in its eastern regions.

In its latest salvo in a propaganda war over Ukraine, in which the United States has issued a list of what it calls 10 false claims by President Vladimir Putin, Russia accused the West of being silent over violence and detentions taking place there against Russian compatriots.

The ministry said in a statement masked men had opened fire on peaceful demonstrators in the eastern city of Kharkiv on March 8, wounding some.

It also said seven Russian journalists had been detained in the eastern city of Dnipropetrovsk, suggesting the new leaders and their Western allies were not committed to media freedoms.

"The shamefaced silence of our Western partners, human rights organisations and foreign media is surprising. It raises the question - where is the notorious objectivity and commitment to democracy?" it said.

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry issued a lengthy rebuttal expressing "surprise" at the Russian statement. It denied that shots had been fired and demonstrators wounded in Kharkiv and said it had no confirmation that journalists had been detained.

"It is a pity that in this situation the Russian Foreign Ministry, instead of carrying out its foreign policy duties and ensuring that Russia meets its international obligations, has taken on the mission of systematic disinformation...," it said.

Ukrainian and foreign reporters, it said, were "encountering obstacles to their legal professional activities ... direct threats and even aggressive acts of force, beatings and robberies."

Kharkiv police said they were treating the Kharkiv incident as a minor one and say the only link to Right Sector came from an anonymous phone caller.

Ukraine's government and Western leaders have accused Russian officials and media of distorting the facts to portray the protesters who ended Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovich's rule as violent extremists.

Witnesses in eastern Ukraine say tensions have been stoked by pro-Russian activists stirring violence to provide Putin with a justification for invading Ukraine to protect Russians there.

An official who monitors media freedom for The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said after visiting Crimea last week that her more pressing concern was about media freedoms in the southern Ukrainian region.

She said pro-Russian authorities who have seized power in Crimea were clamping down on media that did not support them and were intimidating reporters. (Reporting by Megan Davies, writing by Elizabeth Piper, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Ron Popeski)

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