Pro-Russia Unrest Swells in Ukraine

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from The Wall Street Journal,

U.S. White House Backs Charge of Outside Meddling as East Ukraine Rocked by Protests, Spurring New Kerry Mission.

Pro-Moscow protesters occupying government buildings in eastern Ukraine called Monday for their own referendum on independence, a flare-up that spurred a renewed diplomatic push and a fresh warning by the U.S. against any Russian escalation.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, after a phone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, announced he would meet together with Russian, Ukrainian and European officials within 10 days. In an apparent glimmer of progress, Mr. Lavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart, Andriy Deshchytsia, said they had spoken Monday night, in what seems to have been their first significant conversation since the crisis began over a month ago.

Senior U.S. defense officials said their fear is that Russian President Vladimir Putin may be trying to create a pretext for additional military action by covertly fueling unrest in eastern Ukraine.

The country’s new government accused Moscow of instigating the protests, which began Sunday, while the White House said it had evidence that protesters had been paid—a charge Moscow didn’t address.

The situation remained tense. Hundreds of people gathered in front of the regional government building in the industrial city of Donetsk late Monday, listening to Soviet songs such as “Victory Day” playing over loudspeakers.

The flare-up affected Russian markets, with the Micex tumbling as much as 3.3% and the dollar-denominated RTS Index sliding 4.5%. The ruble ended the day down almost 1% against the dollar.

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