In what has been a week of Pro-Russian militants seizing Ukrainian government buildings, militants seized a police station in the city of Donetsk, Eastern Ukraine on Saturday. This after pro-Russian militants have set off confrontational protests and occupied buildings in the cities of Lugansk and Kharkiv.
Some members of Eastern Ukraine’s Russian majority are demanding a referendum on whether portions of Ukraine’s eastern territory might secede from Ukraine proper. They are accusing the Ukrainian interim government of being under the thumb of the United States and European Union. Most of these protests have been fairly violent with fires being set and barricades being built in a fashion remisent of the Maidan protests last month. In some cases, government employees have been taken hostage. Until yesterday, however, guns had not been a part of unrest. But, with the taking of a police station by men armed with automatic weapons that appears to have changed and what can only be described as an aggressive campaign by the pro-Russian militants has spilled out onto the streets as well.
The UN Security Council has called an emergency meeting as a result of the growing tensions.
One Ukrainian security officer has been killed so far in the eastern city of Slovyansk. Previously, the Ukrainian government had offered amnesty to those who had taken control of government buildings but those individuals were not reportedly carrying weapons. The reaction now is more aggressive according to the New York Times.
The Ukrainian government on Sunday for the first time sent in its security services to confront armed pro-Russian militants in the country’s east, defying warnings from Russia as commandos engaged in gunfights with men who had set up roadblocks and stormed a Ukrainian police station in Slovyansk, Ukrainian officials said.
At least one officer was killed in the operation, and several were injured, as were four locals, the officials said. Russian news media and residents here disputed that account, saying the Ukrainian forces had only briefly engaged one checkpoint.
The amnesty offer from the Ukrainian government now seems to be moot.
And the pro-Russian faction appears to be moving quickly to secure other government buildings.
For several days now the pro-Russian majority in Donetsk have been calling for the creation of the Donetsk Republic which would then seek to join Russia. The Kiev based Ukrainian government has characterized the calls for secession as being driven from Moscow rather than originating from within Ukraine.
With only hours to go before the amnesty deadline the Ukrainian government has offered it appears that further armed conflict is inevitable. As before, I am including a link to the EspresoTV live feed here. While there is no English feed, any video of street fighting between Ukrainian Security Services and pro-Russian militants will likely appear there.
If you kept abreast of the Maidan protests and subsequent fighting there then you know that these situations have escalated quickly. What’s unclear is what if anything the Russian government is prepared to do with the reportedly 40,000 troops stationed on the Ukrainian/Russian border given Putin has continually vowed to protect Ethnic Russians from a Ukrainian government that is all but totally dependent on the EU and US. What the Ukrainian interim government has made clear is that they do not intend to allow Eastern Ukraine to become another Crimea.
Below is the weekly roundup of events in Eastern Ukraine from EspresoTV for further information on last week’s events.