Ukraine: Situation Against Militants Is 'Helpless,' Says President
Today, Ukraine is in turmoil. Interim President Oleksandr Turchynov announced that the nation's law enforcement are "helpless" against pro-Russian militants who are ratcheting up their activity in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
The state of affairs was discussed at a meeting with regional governors, according to the Associated Press, during which Turchynov offered advice on how to "prevent the threat in the east from overtaking central and southern regions." He told the governors:
I will be frank. Today, security forces are unable to quickly take the situation in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions under control…. 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.
The Ukrainian government maintains that separatists are led by "mercenaries and special units" from Russia.
That some people are switching sides is no surprise, given their circumstances. Reuters writes that this morning "the police of Luhansk had already stacked sandbags to the ceiling of their HQ in anticipation of trouble" following an "assault they faced on Tuesday night by gunmen armed with automatic rifles, petrol bombs and stun grenades" during which they received no aid from the government.
Pro-Russian separatists staged a predawn break-in of a city council building in Luhansk and waited with AK-47s ready for workers to arrive, reports the Kyiv Post. Later, insurgents seized a tax service and customs office. Radio Free Europe writes that the recent escalation in violence is "unprecedented" and that pro-Russian demonstrators "brutally beat" pro-Ukrainian counterparts at a rally on Monday. Earlier this week, a mayor was shot in the back by an unidentified attacker.
A poll released today shows little confidence in the interim government. Sixty-four percent of respondents from the unstable eastern regions believe the leaders in Kiev don't represent them. However, the poll also showed that "concern about suppression of the Russian language, one of the issues frequently raised by Moscow and cited by pro-Russia separatists" is not widely held by the predominantly Russian-speaking citizens in these regions. And, despite separatist agitation, 74 percent of respondents said they think Ukraine's division can be repaired.
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