Russia warned on Friday that Ukraine's use of the army against its own people in the east will lead to catastrophe and urged the West to renounce its "destructive policies".
"As we repeatedly warned, the use of the army against one's own people is a crime and is leading Ukraine towards catastrophe," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement. "We firmly demand that the West renounce its destructive policies towards Ukraine and those who declared themselves the Kiev authorities immediately stop the reprisal raid and any violence against its own people, free political prisoners, (and) ensure that journalists work freely."
Separately, President Vladimir Putin's spokesman called on the West to deal with a military assault on Ukraine's Russian-speaking town of Slavyansk. "We call on European capitals (and) the United States of America to evaluate what is going on appropriately and of course we call on those who are using the air force against settlements to come to their senses," Dmitry Peskov said, the state RIA Novosti news agency reported.
The Kiev authorities early launched a military assault early on Friday on the flashpoint town of Slavyansk, causing outrage in Moscow where officials and television news anchors called the offensive "a reprisal raid".
Moscow also accused the West of fomenting unrest in the ex-Soviet country. "By supporting the organisers of a coup in their intentions to clamp down on protests with force, the United States and the European Union are taking upon themselves a huge responsibility essentially closing the door upon the peaceful resolution of the crisis," the foreign ministry said.
Moscow said it was especially worried by reports that English was heard "on the airwaves" during the offensive. "English-speaking foreigners were sighted among those who attacked Slavyansk," the foreign ministry said without providing details.
Moscow said foreign interference in the Ukrainian conflict was unacceptable, adding that Washington had earlier shot down suggestions that US mercenaries were present in Ukraine. "It is widely known that the so-called private military organisations do not work abroad without authorisation of the US State Department."
Russian state television quoted Slavyansk residents as comparing the assault to a Nazi operation againt peaceful civilians. "Just like the Nazis attacked the Soviet Union in 1941 today the forces conducting the reprisal raid attacked the sleeping city," local activist Oleg Tsarev said in televised remarks.