Investigators in Russia have arrested the head of a Ukrainian literature library in Moscow over claims she was distributing banned books written by Ukrainian nationalist author and political activist Dmytro Korchynsky.
Korchynsky had been involved in the violent protests that led to Ukraine’s former pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych fleeing the capital Kiev in February 2014, resulting in the collapse of the Ukrainian government.
He had played a role in founding the far-right UNA-UNSO party, as well as another far-right party known as Bratstvo (Brotherhood).
Books deemed to be urging "anti-Russian propaganda" were also seized from the library, which was originally set up by Russia to promote Ukrainian literature, the Agence France Presse news agency reported.
Natalya Sharina, 58, was charged with inciting ethnic hatred and violating human dignity. If found guilty, she could face up to five years in prison.
Ukraine’s new government slammed Sharina’s arrest saying in a statement released by its foreign ministry on Wednesday that Russia was trying to label all things Ukrainian “Russophobic” and “extremist.”
The library had already been searched for "extremist literature" in 2010 and 2011, the statement added.
"We call on the Russian authorities to halt pressure on the work of the library -- a cultural centre of a thousands-strong Ukrainian community."
Russia and Ukraine have been at loggerheads since the spring of 2014, when Russia annexed the breakaway Crimean peninsula from Ukraine following a referendum, in which Crimea’s predominantly ethnic Russian population voted in favour of joining Moscow.
Crimea had declared independence from Ukraine after the fall of Yanukovych’s government, which had come under pressure by pro-EU demonstrators after refusing a much-needed EU bailout.
Russia has also been supporting rebels in the east of the country who have declared self-proclaimed republics in the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk. Despite a ceasefire deal signed by both sides in the Belarussian capital Minsk in February, sporadic clashes continue as tensions still run high.
It was reported on Wednesday that separatist rebels in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donbass "were firing grenade launchers, large-caliber submachine guns and small arms” on Ukrainian forces, the government’s Anti-Terrorist Operation press centre said.
Speaking to Russian media, Ukrainian military press officer Danila Onipko on Thursday said artillery systems near Mariupol were being withdrawn as efforts continue to de-escalate tensions in the region, adding that weapons will also be pulled out from Donetsk next.
On Wednesday, pro-Russian rebels likewise withdrew artillery of less than 100mm caliber from the frontline in Donbass.