Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that the deployment of the army in eastern Ukraine by the Kyiv authorities constitutes a "serious crime against their own people" and will have "consequences."
Putin's comments on April 24 came as Ukrainian authorities announced their first successes in a military operation to dislodge pro-Russia insurgents in the east.
The Ukrainian Interior Ministry posted a statement saying "antiterrorist" operations in the Slovyansk region of Donetsk had cleared and destroyed three illegal armed checkpoints and killed five "terrorists." One Ukrainian counterterrorism troop was reportedly wounded.
Putin, speaking at a gathering in St. Petersburg, described the offensive against the separatists as a "punitive measure" and called the pro-Western government in Kyiv a "junta or clique."
He also said that sanctions imposed by the West on Russia over its actions in Ukraine are having some effect on its economy but not a critical one.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Moscow that the United States should use its influence to persuade Kyiv to implement its commitments under an international agreement signed last week in Geneva.
Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, Interfax, and RFE/RL