A pro-Russian masked armed militant inspects a bus near Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday. Ukraine’s police and security forces are “helpless” to quell unrest in two eastern regions bordering Russia, and in some cases are cooperating with pro-Russian gunmen who have seized scores of government buildings and taken people hostage, the country’s president Oleksandr Turchynov said Wednesday.
HORLIVKA, Ukraine — Ukraine’s acting president conceded Wednesday that his police and security forces were “helpless” to stifle unrest in the country’s east, where pro-Russia gunmen seized more buildings, walking into the police station and mayor’s office in this mining hub without resistance.
Insurgents also took control of the customs service building in Donetsk, the region’s main city, and city hall in Alchevsk, an industrial center of about 110,000, adding to the scores of buildings taken by the separatists over the past month in the east, where a dozen cities are now in the hands of the separatists.
Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov has twice proclaimed “anti-terrorist” operations to regain control of the east, but to little effect. In a meeting with officials from other Ukrainian regions, he acknowledged the failure and indicated the government would back off even trying to bring the most restive parts of the east to heel, focusing instead on trying to keep the unrest from spreading to other parts of the nation of 46 million.
“I will be frank: Today, security forces are unable to quickly take the situation in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions under control,” Turchynov said. “The security bodies ... are unable to carry out their duties of protecting citizens. They are helpless in those matters.”
“Moreover, some of those units are either helping or cooperating with terrorist organizations,” he said.
Hours after Turchynov spoke, authorities in the capital, Kiev, announced security forces would hold exercises overnight. The maneuvers could be aimed at reassuring Ukrainians that the government was not capitulating. But they are also likely to be seen as an aggressive move by the eastern insurgents, who claim the government is a nationalist cabal intent on suppressing the east’s large Russian-speaking population.
Turchynov’s government, which came to power after Russia-friendly president Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in the wake of monthslong protests, and its supporters in the West have accused Moscow of orchestrating the turmoil in eastern Ukraine, which borders Russia. The United States and the European Union rolled out new economic sanctions against Russia this week, but Moscow has remained unbowed, denying its role in the unrest.
On Wednesday, Turchynov said “mercenaries and special units” were attacking eastern Ukraine.
“That is why I am stressing our task is to stop the spread of the terrorist threat, first of all in the Kharkiv and Odessa regions,” Turchynov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
Kharkiv is in eastern Ukraine, north of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions that are the heart of the insurgency; Odessa is on the Black Sea coast, about 120 miles (200 kilometers) west of the Crimea peninsula, which Russia annexed in March after its troops backed separatist self-defense forces.
The mayor of Kharkiv, who had been credited with keeping Ukraine’s second-largest city calm, was shot in the back while jogging earlier this week.
Turchynov said the threat of a Russian invasion was real and urged the creation of regional self-defense units throughout the country. Russia has placed tens of thousands of troops near the border with Ukraine.MORE IN Wire NewsWASHINGTON ó Congress accomplished relatively little in a short work period, missing deadlines on... Full Story
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