Russian President Vladimir Putin has said there will be consequences if Ukraine's new government uses the army against its own people, the Interfax news agency reported, on a day when Kiev said its forces have killed five militants as part of an operation to clear pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine's interior ministry said in a statement on its website that the militants were killed at a checkpoint in the city of Slovyansk that is now in the hands of forces loyal to Kiev. The interior ministry described the killed as "terrorists."
However, a spokeswoman for the Slovyansk insurgents, Stella Khorosheva, told the Associated Press said she could confirm only that at least two pro-Russia fighters were killed during the clashes.
Interfax carried the comments after Putin made them on Russian TV.
Putin said that "If the Kiev government is using the army against its own people this is clearly a grave crime." He said that the recent events in eastern Ukraine proved that Russia's decision to annex Crimea was the correct one.
The push back by Ukraine's government against separatist strongholds in the Donetsk region comes as pro-Russia protesters and masked gunmen have seized government buildings and set up checkpoints along roads approximately 100 miles from the border with Russia. And that development itself comes despite an agreement signed last week between Russia and Ukraine to ease tensions in the region.
Speaking from Japan on Thursday, President Obama accused Moscow of failing to abide by the "spirit or the letter" of the agreement. He also warned Moscow that the U.S. has more economic sanctions "teed up."
"I understand that additional sanctions may not change Putin's calculus," Obama said during a news conference in Tokyo with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. "How well they change his calculus in part depends on not only us applying sanctions but also the cooperation of other countries."