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Ukraine orders new military operation in the east

KIEV, Ukraine — Ukraine's acting president ordered security forces to resume operations in the country's east on Tuesday after the bodies of two people allegedly abducted by pro-Russia insurgents were found and a military aircraft was reportedly hit by gunfire.

The developments — just hours after U.S. Vice President Joe Biden left the Ukrainian capital — raised fears that last week's international agreement on easing Ukraine's crisis was unraveling.

The accord calls for all sides to refrain from violence and for demonstrators to vacate public buildings. It does not specifically prohibit security operations, but Ukraine suspended its so-called "anti-terrorist operation" after it was reached.

Pro-Russia insurgents who have seized police stations and other public buildings in eastern Ukraine are defying the call to vacate, saying they were not party to the agreement by Ukraine, Russia, the United States and the European Union.

In a statement, acting President Oleksandr Turchynov said the two bodies found Tuesday in Slovyansk bore signs of torture. One of the victims was a member of the city council and a member of Turchynov's party, he said.

Terrorists "are beginning to torture and kill Ukrainian patriots. They are impudently rejecting the calls of not only our country but of all the world's society when they demonstratively mock the decisions taken in Geneva," he said.

"These crimes are being done with the full support and connivance of Russia," Turchynov added.

The acting government, which took over after President Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia in February, says Russia is behind the unrest in eastern Ukraine which it fears Moscow could use as a pretext for an invasion. Last month, Russia annexed Crimea weeks after seizing control of the peninsula.

The Defense Ministry said gunfire hit an observation plane over Slovyansk but the aircraft landed safely without injuries.

Standing alongside Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Biden called on Moscow to encourage pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine to vacate government buildings and checkpoints, accept amnesty and "address their grievances politically."

Biden said Russia needs to act "without delay," adding, "We will not allow this to become an open-ended process."

Yatsenyuk was harsher in his characterization of Russia.

"No country should be able to behave like an armed bandit," he said. "Russia should stick to its international commitments and obligations. They should not behave as gangsters in the modern century."

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Masked pro Russia protestors guard barricades at the regional administration building that they had seized earlier in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, April 22. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden warned Russia on Tuesday that "it's time to stop talking and start acting" to reduce tension in Ukraine.

(AP)

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