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Ukraine Crisis - Russian Military Intervention

Ukraine Crisis - 29 April 2014

Ukraine’s acting president said that the Kyiv government has effectively lost control over the situation in the country’s eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions where a number of government buildings have been taken over by pro-Russia separatists. Oleksandr Turchynov says that Russia is now eyeing six more regions in the country’s east and south. A takeover by Russia of two such regions, if it were to take full control of Donetsk, would secure Russia’s land connection with Crimea, which it annexed in March 2014. The takeover of two more regions along the Black Sea coast would connect Russian mainland with Moldova’s Russian-speaking Transdniestria enclave.

Turchynov lashed out at the country's law enforcement for failing to act. "The overwhelming majority of law enforcement bodies in the east are incapable of fulfilling their duties to defend our citizens. New heads of the Security Service of Ukraine have already been appointed in Donetsk and Luhansk [eastern Ukraine]. The leadership of the special forces "Alpha" has been totally replaced," said Turchynov. The acting president said in a televised address that the situation in the east of the country “demonstrated inaction, helplessness and sometimes treason” and pledged to sack many officers in eastern regions of Ukraine. He also said “as we know from the experience of Maidan, the use of force is inefficient. That’s the situation we faced in the eastern regions.”

Acting Ukrainian President Olexander Turchynov said territorial defense battalions will be formed in every region to protect the crisis-hit country. "We have issued an order to form territorial defense battalions in every region," Turchynov told a meeting attended by heads of regional administrations. "We should have a possibility to rapidly deploy these mobile units to support other regions in case of such danger." Turchynov added that Ukraine should rely both on "those who had been trained to defend the country" and "patriots."

US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt said at a press conference that he had advised Kyiv against the use of force to drive separatists out of more than 30 seized government buildings in nearly a dozen cities and towns in east Ukraine. Pyatt at the briefing at Ukrainian Crisis Media Center claimed: “Russian troops crossing Ukrainian border is sharp escalation. It would produce tragic consequences and sharp reaction from the US”. He also said: “Sanctions are aimed to encourage Russia to find diplomatic solutions, to deescalate the situation. Sanctions is not the end, it’s a process aimed at changing Russia’s activity."

Pro-Russian gunmen seized yet another administrative building in eastern Ukraine. Armed insurgents took control of the local council building in Horlivka, a town of more than 260,000 people. Police say the pro-Russian rebels have also overtaken the town’s regional police department. Hundreds of pro-Russian separatists overran more Ukrainian government buildings near the Russian border earlier, taking control of several in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations committee, Bob Corker, called for stronger sanctions against Russia. He proposed sanctions on Russia's banking and energy sectors that would “actually do something that affects the Russian economy to the extent that they pull troops away from the Ukrainian border and remove operators inside Ukraine." He said current sanctions on Russia are inadequate.

Increasingly, it's becoming evident the events in Donetsk and eastern Ukraine are being directed from outside. The April 28 violence seems to have been carried out by people who came to the city in buses and left immediately afterward. A similar modus operandi was observed earlier in Kharkiv, and in Luhansk on April 29. The growing violence, however, has shocked and repulsed many ordinary local residents who otherwise might be sympathetic to the pro-Russia movement. Residents also are increasingly of the opinion that local activists have lost control of the pro-Russia movement.

A group of separatists of about 30 people entered the building of the Alchevsk City Council, after which the Ukrainian flag was withdrawn from it. The activists held talks with government officials, another flag appeared on the mayor's office. However, it is not the Russian flag, but the flag of Alchevsk. The Ukrainian flag was removed. Most of the executive committee employees went home in the afternoon, the management remains at their workplaces," a statement reads. The pro-Russian extremists also entered the building of the Sverdlovsk town ?ouncil in Luhansk region. Unknown people and the Party of Regions representatives also arrived in the city from Luhansk.

A leader of the self-declared "Donetsk People's Republic" said that Russian officers were operating in the east of Ukraine but did not provide details. Denis Pushilin said the eastern Ukrainian region will not take part in the presidential election scheduled for 25 May. Pushilin confirmed the Donetsk Republic plans to hold a referendum on possible secession from Ukraine on May 11, and said it will hold its own leadership vote after that. The Central Election Commission of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic has set up over 2,000 polling stations and 55 electoral commissions for the upcoming referendum.

Acting Head of the Presidential Administration of Ukraine Serhiy Pashynsky expressed the belief that the situation in Sloviansk will be localized in the coming days. He told reporters about this at a briefing at the Presidential Administration. "As part of anti-terrorist activities, work is underway, negotiations and blocking. In the coming days, I think, the situation will be localized in Sloviansk," Pashynsky said. He also noted that the antiterrorist operation is complicated by a large number of hostages, captured by separatists, as well as by the fact that a large number of the city population is really "zombified by the Russian propaganda."

An opinion poll released by a US democracy group found widespread doubts and worries among Ukrainians who think their country is in the grip of chaos and don't believe the government is effective. The poll was carried out by the Washington-based International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), which has been conducting polls in Ukraine regularly since 1994. More than twice as many Ukrainians believe that Ukraine would be better off with closer economic and political relations with Europe than with Russia (44% vs. 21%).

It showed 80 percent of respondents from Ukraine’s troubled east said they considered the Western-oriented interim government in Kyiv, formed after the February ouster of Russia-friendly president Viktor Yanukovych, illegitimate. The poll also found that Ukrainians in the mostly Russian-speaking east also are far less convinced than their compatriots that the May 25 presidential elections will be fair. Almost half said they thought the elections would lack integrity and be so flawed that the results would not be legitimate. In this region, 42% believed that the central government had "No Control at All" of the region. Of respondants in the East, some 30% Strongly Agreed and 34% Somewhat Agreed with the statement "Although recent events have brought out divisions between different groups of people in Ukraine, we all still live in one country and will be able to repair our divisions in the long run".

The newly formed Russian army helicopter brigade has begun training flights in the northwest of the country near the borders with the Baltic states of Estonia and Latvia, a spokesman for the Western Military District said 30 April 2014. “Helicopters of the army aviation brigade of the Western Military District, based in the Pskov region, have begun regular training flights in the skies over northwestern Russia,” Col. Oleg Kochetkov said. Kochetkov said the flights involve dozens of Mi-28N Night Hunter and Ka-52 Alligator attack helicopters as well as Mi-8MTV-5 and Mi-26T combat transport helicopters.

The 15th army aviation brigade, formed in December 2013 and stationed at the Ostrov airbase, is fully equipped with new, recently-built helicopters. The brigade currently comprises three helicopter squadrons, with two more to be added in the near future. Media in the former Soviet Baltic states, as well as Germany, Poland and the United Kingdom, have expressed security concerns about Russia’s decision to station the 15th brigade near NATO’s borders.

US secretary of state John Kerry said “After two decades of focusing primarily on our expeditionary missions, the crisis in Ukraine now call us back to the work that this alliance was originally created to perform... Today, Putin’s Russia is playing by a different set of rules,” the secretary stated. “Through its occupation of Crimea and its subsequent destabilization of eastern Ukraine, Russia seeks to change the security landscape of Eastern and Central Europe.... Together we have to push back against those who try to change sovereign border by force. Together we have to support those who simply want to live as we do”.

Ukraine Crisis - 29 April 2014

Pro-Russian separatists fired on a police station in the city of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine Tuesday after seizing the regional government headquarters. The separatists opened fire with automatic weapons and threw stun grenades at the local police headquarters, in an effort to force police inside to surrender their weapons. The regional prosecutor's office and television center were also taken over by separatists. The protesters met no resistance, as there were no law enforcers on the site, and employees of the prosecutor's office left the building before the seizure started. Hundreds of pro-Russian separatists stormed the regional government headquarters in Ukraine's eastern city of Luhansk. They met no resistance from police.

The government in Kyiv has all but lost control of its police forces in parts of eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian activists have seized buildings in the region's second biggest city of Donetsk and several smaller towns. Pro-Moscow activists in Luhansk, a city of 465,000 inhabitants near the Russian border, seized the local Security Service building three weeks ago.

The law enforcement agencies were not ready to use weapons against those who seize administrative buildings, NSDC Deputy Secretary Viktoria Siumar told reporters in Donetsk. "The threat to life and health is very serious, and we see that in fact the law enforcement agencies are not ready to act, that is to shoot to kill when protecting the objects," Siumar noted. According to her, the terrorists attack telecommunications facilities in large groups, therefore it is difficult to resist. "We, of course, had warned about the dangers of relevant and related plans, gave the addresses of all the objects, they had been taken under protection. Unfortunately, this protection was not enough, because the terrorists capture telecommunications facilities in quite large groups from 20 to 50 armed men with guns," she said.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that Russian forces, which started drills near the border last week, had returned to their permanent positions, according to the Russian government. "As soon as the Ukrainian authorities announced the absence of any plans to use regular Armed Forces units against unarmed people, Russian units were withdrawn to their permanent bases," Shoigu was quoted as saying on April 28 by the Russian Defense Ministry's press service. But a NATO official said "We currently have no information that indicates a withdrawal of Russian troops from the Ukrainian border. We continue to urge Russia to abide by the Geneva agreement and to pull back all its troops along the Ukrainian border in favour of diplomacy and dialogue".

Transport planes brought about 130 US Army paratroopers to Estonia, part of a NATO show of force in eastern Europe. Several NATO members have sent warplanes and ships to the region. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the military build-up was accompanied by "provocative" statements about the need to "contain" Russia.

Russia is not going to repeat “The Crimean scenario” in southeastern Ukraine, said the country’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov. “I think what happened in Crimea turned out to be a big shock for Western partners. They can’t tolerate it. And they see the same scenario in southeastern Ukraine,” he told Gazeta.ru.

The US has been behind the Ukrainian crisis from the beginning, but was initially flying low, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said. He added that if sanctions continue, Russia will have to reconsider who has access to key sectors if its economy. “I think what is happening now shows us who really was mastering the process from the beginning. But in the beginning, the United States preferred to remain in the shadow,” Putin said. Putin stated that since the US has taken a lead role in resolving the political crisis in Ukraine, it is “telling that they originally were behind this process, but now they just have emerged as leaders” of it.

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Page last modified: 01-05-2014 15:22:24 ZULU