Ukrainian leader slams police 'treachery'

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Pro-Russian separatists face little resistance as they occupy key buildings in Gorlivka city in Ukraine's east

Pro-Russian separatists face little resistance as they occupy key buildings in Gorlivka city in Ukraine's east

KIEV/DONETSK, Ukraine -  Gorlivka is the latest city to come under the control of pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine after around 30 armed and masked men in military uniforms stormed the council building and a police station early Wednesday.

According to local media reports, council officers were met by pro-Russian men weilding Kalashnikov automatic rifles and standing guard at the building's entrance.

Separatists had previously also seized a district police station in Gorlivka on April 14, raising the flags of the self-proclaimed ‘People’s Republic of Donetsk’ and the Russian Federation.

In the last few days, several government buildings in eastern cities have been taken over by pro-Moscow rebels who reportedly encountered no resistence from Ukraine's security forces.

This "inaction" by local police drew criticism from Ukrainian President and Verkhovna Rada Chairman Oleksandr Turchynov who described it as "criminal treachery".

He said incidents in the restive east of the country had "shown the inaction, powerlessness and in some cases criminal treachery of the law enforcement authorities".

On Tuesday, pro-Russian forces seized the local administrative building, prosecutor's offices and a television centre in the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk - a second provincial capital with a population of around 500,000, breaking doors and windows of the building after lowering the Ukrainian flag.

The armed rebels have been occupying key state buildings in ten cities and towns in the east of the country since early April, demanding a regional referendum on unification with Moscow, the release of detained Russian supporters and official status for the Russian language.

In remarks to BBC television, Ukraine's Interior Minister Arsen Avakov warned that national elections scheduled for May 25 might not be held in some eastern regions of the country due to the latest incidents and instability there.

Tuesday also saw fresh clashes in Kiev's Maidan between Samooborona, the wider group gathering the 'self-defence forces of Maidan', and the 'Patriots of Ukraine' – the paramilitary wing of far-right Svoboda (Freedom) Party.

The violence erupted as the Maidan self-defense forces attempted to block around 200 masked young people who wanted to march with torches in hand in memory of those who died during protests which began in November last year.

Elsewhere in Ukraine's east, since Friday armed pro-Russian militants in Slavyansk have abducted seven international monitors from a military observation group, connected to the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) plus five Ukrainian soldiers, according to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry. The militants released a Swiss national from the delegation due to health problems. 

Slavyansk, a city of around 130,000 people, has been under the control of separatists for nearly three weeks.

Amid escalating tension in Ukraine's east, the United States and the European Union have ratcheted up sanctions on Russia as a response to what they call Moscow’s failure to live up to obligations agreed to at a multilateral meeting in Geneva.

The deal, struck in mid-April between Ukraine, the U.S., the EU and Russia, aimed to defuse tensions in the east of Ukraine through disarming militias and paramilitary units. The deal called for a halt to violence and required demonstrators to vacate occupied public buildings.

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