Apparent Ukrainian troop defections escalate tensions in eastern Ukraine

DONETSK, Ukraine — Tensions escalated in eastern Ukraine on Wednesday, with pro-Russian gunmen storming City Hall in the sprawling city of Donetsk and a cluster of Ukrainian troops meant to be restoring order in the region apparently defecting to the side of separatists.A column of armored vehicles flying Russian flags drove into an eastern Ukrainian city controlled by pro-Russia demonstrators Wednesday, dampening the central government's hopes to re-establish control.

The events signaled a challenge ahead for the pro-Western Ukrainian government on the second day of its campaign to quell the restive east and came as Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that Ukraine was on the verge “of a civil war.”

A line of combat vehicles flying Russian flags rolled Wednesday morning into Slovyansk, a city of 120,000 where separatists have set up roadblocks since Saturday. One soldier named Andrei, speaking to the Associated Press, identified the men as part of the 25th Brigade of Ukraine’s airborne forces that had switched to the side of pro-Russian forces. The troops, in green camouflage and packing automatic weapons and grenade launchers, received a warm welcome from local separatists, AP said.

The report could not be immediately verified, and it was unclear whether the troops, if they did defect, were acting on their own free will.

Around 10 a.m. local time, a squad of separatists backed by seven masked gunmen in camouflage stormed the seat of Donetsk’s mayor and local council.

By Wednesday afternoon, more than 40 men, some masked and heavily armed, were occupying the building but still allowing workers and local officials to go about their business inside city hall.

 

 

 

READ MORE: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/ukrainian-troop-defections-escalate-tensions-in-eastern-ukraine/2014/04/16/4d36b1b6-c532-11e3-b574-f8748871856a_story.html

EDWARD LUCAS: I hope I’m wrong but historians may look back and say this was the start of World War III

Deep in the flat and featureless landscape of eastern Ukraine, it is all too ­possible that the outline of World War III is taking shape.

Whipped up by the Kremlin ­propaganda machine and led by Russian ­military intelligence, armed men are erecting road blocks, storming police stations and ripping down the country’s flag.

They are demolishing not just their own country — bankrupt, ill-run and beleaguered — but also the post-war order that has kept most of Europe and us, here in Britain, safe and free for decades.
Vladimir Putin is striking at the heart of the West.

 

  • ‘Vladimir Putin is striking at the heart of the West’
  • ‘We can chose to surrender any responsibility we have to protect Ukraine and the Baltic states’
  • ‘Or we can mount a last-ditch attempt to deter Russia from furthering its imperial ambitions’
  • ‘If we choose to resist Putin, we will risk a terrifying miltary escalation’
  • ‘I do not think it an exaggeration to say this could bring us to the brink of nuclear war

READ MORE: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2605578/Edward-Lucas-I-hope-Im-wrong-historians-look-say-start-World-War-III.html