In Brief

Ukraine: calls for new offensive as politician 'tortured to death'

Turchynov to relaunch military operations against pro-Russian separatists as situation worsens

UKRAINE'S acting president has called for the immediate resumption of military action against pro-Russian separatists after the body of one of his supporters was found showing signs of torture.

Oleksandr Turchynov said that two "brutally tortured" bodies had been discovered near the eastern city of Slavyansk. One was said to be a politician from Turchynov's Batkivshchyna party named Volodymyr Rybak.

"The terrorists who effectively took the whole Donetsk region hostage have now gone too far," he said, reports The Guardian.

Earlier in the day the Ukrainian defence ministry said that a surveillance plane was hit with small arms fire while flying over Slavyansk. The crew made an emergency landing without injuries, the ministry added.

The events came against the backdrop of US Vice-President Joe Biden's two-day visit to Ukraine. Biden urged Russia to "stop talking and start acting" to bring an end to the crisis. The vice-president called on Moscow to instruct pro-Russian separatists to leave buildings they are occupying and abandon checkpoints in eastern Ukraine.

The relaunch of military action comes as international monitors report "a worsening in the security situation" in rebel-held cities. An American journalist working for Vice News, Simon Ostrovsky, is reportedly being held by the separatists running Slavyansk. The Guardian says that Ostrovsky's capture is just one of "a growing number" of abductions, arrests and disappearances.

Yesterday three people were killed in a shootout at a checkpoint manned by Russian-speaking gunmen. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) described the gunfight as "a worrying deterioration of the situation".

Before leaving Kiev, Biden pledged support for Ukraine's new leaders. The US also announced on Tuesday that it would deploy 600 troops to Poland and Baltic countries including Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.

The US government blames Russia for fuelling the crisis, which has pushed East-West relations to their "most critical point" since the Cold War, the Daily Telegraph says.

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