'Russia Wants to Start World War Three'

Rhetoric between Moscow, Kiev escalates, as Russia accuses Ukraine of war crimes and Ukraine accuses Russia of war-mongering.

Tova Dvorin ,

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine
Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine

Rhetoric escalated between Moscow and Kiev Friday, as a tense standoff ensues in eastern Ukraine between armed pro-Russian demonstrators and the Ukrainian military. 

"Attempts at military conflict in Ukraine will lead to a military conflict in Europe," Acting Ukrainian Prime Minister Artseniy Yatsenyuk told the interim cabinet, in remarks on a live broadcast. "The world has not yet forgotten World War Two, but Russia already wants to start World War Three."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rebutted in a sharp criticism of Kiev over their role in the ongoing conflict.

"They (Kiev) are waging a war on their own people. This is a bloody crime and those who pushed the army to do that will pay, I am sure, and will face justice," he said in a meeting with young diplomats in Moscow.

Lavrov also warned that pro-Russian demonstrators in Donetsk “will be ready” to lay down arms and vacate the buildings “only if Kiev authorities get down to implementing the Geneva accords, clear out that shameful Maidan (central square) and liberate the buildings that have been illegally seized.”

The US threatened Russia with more sanctions on Thursday, after disturbing reports surfaced that the bodies of two Ukrainian men - one a parliamentarian - had been found, mutilated and presumably tortured, near the Donetsk city of Slaviansk. 

Eastern Ukraine in particular has been the seat of pro-Russian tensions since earlier this month, when neighboring Crimea held a controversial referendum vote and was annexed by Moscow after a de facto military invasion of the region.

landmark deal reached Thursday night between Russia, the US and the European Union (EU) called for the separatists, who have been seizing government buildings in eastern Ukraine for several days, to disarm and stand down - in exchange for amnesty. 

The pro-Russian protesters have largely ignored the deal, however, claiming early Friday that the agreement does not apply to them.