A united group of armed men have taken hold of a police station and a building that is used for facilitating security services near the Russian border in Sloviansk, Ukraine. These men have been called “terrorists” by the interior minister of Ukraine, who also added that a team of “special forces” will “repel the attack.”
This incident is not the only example of Pro-Russian captures in Eastern Ukraine. Other government buildings have also been occupied by Pro-Russian groups, who are seeking access to a referendum, similar to the one passed in the Crimea region that would make them a part of Russia. Donetsk, which is located only 80 miles from Sloviansk has been occupying a similar building for the last few days.
Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine, has called upon Moscow to stop provoking these protests, claiming that Moscow is behind these takeovers. Since President Viktor Yanukovych was removed from power in February, the Pro-Russians, living along Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia, have grown increasingly empowered to demonstrate their favor of joining Russia.
It is hard to get an exact read on the situation, however, as many believe the sections of the population that support staying independent from Russia are being suppressed. The referendum that was passed in Crimea for example did not offer citizens the option of voting “No” to Russian control. As Keir Giles reports from Chatham House in London, “Even if [the referendum] were legitimate, the two choices presented to Crimean voters offer them no option for leaving Russian control.”
The United States and the EU have both shown their disfavor for Crimea’s takeover, issuing sanctions upon persons they say were connected, however, many believe these sanctions to be immaterial and biased because of energy dependence. A Russian natural gas tycoon was suspiciously left off of the list, although many believe him to be as connected to the events as any other man.
Ukraine’s Interim Prime Minister went to Donetsk on Friday, and tried to appease the militants, telling them that no barrier would be put upon the Russian language in these areas, and in the country.
Local police in Sloviansk said that the gunmen who took the police station had stun grenades and firearms. They apparently fired warning shots and have been quoted as saying that they went to Sloviansk in order to fight against the “illegal authority” of the current interim Prime Minister. The Interior Minister of Ukraine said on his Facebook page that a response from the Ukrainian government will not be easy to make, because there is a difference between those acting as protesters and those acting as terrorists.
The takeover has been described as “well-organized” by an eye witness for the BBC in Sloviansk, Ukraine. That eyewitness also said that the militants are well armed and have, set up road blocks around the area. The Ukrainian governments warning that they will “repel” the attackers, certainly makes this situation appear critical. What the exact response, and involvement, issued by both the United States and the EU is unclear at this moment, although both bodies appear hesitant to get involved.
By Nick Manai