Ukraine Military Gets Ready To Move on Pro-Russian Demonstrators

Image: Ukraine Military Gets Ready To Move on Pro-Russian Demonstrators Ukrainian air force Su-27 fighter jet is in the sky outside Slovyansk, 100 miles from the Russian border, in eastern Ukraine.

Tuesday, 15 Apr 2014 12:38 PM

By Clyde Hughes

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The Ukrainian military appears ready to start forcing pro-Russia demonstrators out of  government buildings in eastern Ukraine, a move that some fear may spark a response from the Russian government.

In recent days, pro-Russian demonstrators have taken over government buildings in nine eastern cities, including Slovyansky, Donetsk and Horlivka, reported National Public Radio, and on Tuesday media representatives saw at least 14 armored personnel carriers with Ukrainian flags, one helicopter and military trucks parked 24 miles north of Slovyansk.

Other heavy military equipment appeared nearby, along with at least seven busloads of government troops in black military fatigues, according to NPR.

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RIA Novosti, Russia's state news agency, reported that Ukrainian army troops wounded two pro-Russian militiamen Tuesday during a skirmish near an airport in Kramatorsk, near Slovyansk, according to The Associated Press.

Ukrainian troops arrived at the airport in an armored personnel carrier and a fight broke out after talking to the gunmen who control the area.

The pro-Russian demonstrators are demanding broader autonomy and closer ties with Russia, according to the AP. The Ukrainian government has been incapable of stopping the insurgencies and many local Ukrainian forces have switched sides.

European leaders have agreed to widen sanctions against Moscow, reported Reuters, and the White House said it was seeking additional ways to penalize Russia. Kiev and European leaders are calling the move by separatist as a "Russian plot to dismember Ukraine."

Ukraine's interim president Oleksander Turchinov said the government could hold a nationwide referendum on Ukrainian's future but the militants are demanding separate referendums in their regions, Reuters reported.

Ukraine officials charge that the separatists are being organized by Moscow, seeking to repeat their success in annexing the Crimea region, which Moscow took over last month.

Russia claims that the armed militants are all local residents who want closer ties with Russia and acting on their own. Western officials, though, said the uprisings are too similar to the Russia's efforts in Crimea for them to be spontaneous.

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