Russian state news complained on Saturday that Ukraine has mobilized 15,000 troops to eastern cities in order to “wipe out” the city and its inhabitants. According to a quote from an anonymous Russian Foreign Ministry source, satellite photos showed Ukrainian troops forming around the eastern city of Slavyansk.
According to the source from within the ministry, the citizens in Slavyansk have strong ties to Russia and the troop movement around the city causes an unfair advantage for the Ukrainian military because pro-Russian separatists are armed with only “small pistols and shotguns.”
According to Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, Russia has no choice but to practice the military drills by the roughly 40,000 troops amassed on the Ukrainian border stating, “The order to use force against civilians has already been given, and if this military machine is not stopped, the amount of casualties will only grow.” Shoigu also went on to criticize NATO, stating that the “war games” taking place in Poland and the Baltic are not conducive to normalizing the situation in Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin also commented on the decision by Kiev to mobilize troops around Slavyansk, saying that if Ukraine is using military force against its own people inside their borders then that is a “serious crime against its own nation.” Putin went on to say that there will be consequences for the actions Ukrainian officials have taken, including the relationship between Russia and Ukraine.
Russia has warned in the past that they reserve the right to use force against Ukraine in order to protect ethnic Russians within the Ukrainian border.
Since Kiev has revived their attempt at taking back cities that have been occupied in the Donetsk region, Russia has retaliated by restarting military exercises on its border. Ukrainian President Oleksander Turchynov has called Russia’s choice to do this, “blackmail” saying that [Russian] terrorists have crossed into Ukraine, are taking hostages and killing Ukrainian patriots.
Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lovrov said in an interview with the state-run RT news that Russia has the right to defend Russian citizens inside Ukraine saying that an attack on a Russian citizen is also an attack on Russia. He also urged Kiev to stop its “illegal actions” in the east.
Earlier this week, pro-Russian separatists captured several military inspectors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) along with five Ukrainian military escorts and their driver as they entered the eastern city of Slavyansk. According to the Ukrainian security service, the detainees are being held in “inhumane conditions” in a basement of a building occupied by the militants.
However, the self-proclaimed “people’s mayor” of Slavyansk, Vyacheslav Ponomarev stated that the prisoners are well and will be released in exchange for captured militants that are being held by Kiev. Ponomarev also stated that the men were from NATO, unarmed and had no right to be there in the first place. The sentiment that the inspectors were from NATO was echoed by the self-declared leader of the “People’s Republic of Donestk,” Denis Pushlin, who stated that the men were not from OSCE, but were NATO spies. NATO has begun military exercises in Poland as an added security measure with more scheduled to take place next week in the Baltic.
By Nathaniel Pownell
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