Ukraine Turmoil Sparks Military Action
Published: April 25, 2014 (Issue # 1807)
As tanks and troops sent by the central government in Kiev zeroed in on Ukraine's wayward town of Slovyansk on Thursday and Ukraine's interior ministry reported that as many as five separatists had been killed, Moscow responded by ordering snap military drills on the border with the troubled region.
The move marks the first time Russia has officially acknowledged that its military action was directly related to events unfolding in neighboring Ukraine. During earlier military drills, the Kremlin had denied any connection with the Ukraine crisis.
But on Tuesday, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia had been "forced to react to these developments," adding that Ukraine had deployed 160 tanks, 230 armored vehicles and at least 150 guns and mortars to counter 2,000 militants armed with about 100 machine guns.
"The forces are not equal. They were allowed to use arms against civilians. If this military machine does not get stopped today, it will lead to more bloodshed," Shoigu said, Interfax reported.
Shoigu did not specify the amount of troops that would participate in the exercise, though he did specify that Russia's Air Force would conduct patrol flights around the Ukrainian border.
Earlier in the day, President Vladimir Putin accused the new Kiev government of committing "serious crimes against its own people" and sapping last week's deal aimed at de-escalation in conflict-ridden Ukraine.
"We have participated in the Geneva meeting, where we signed certain documents ordering people from both sides to disarm, vacate administrative buildings and so on. What is happening? The Right Sector, as well as other radical organizations do not disarm, on the contrary, these gangs are getting legalized," Putin said in St. Petersburg on Thursday, referring to the radical nationalist movement that was instrumental in bringing down the pro-Moscow regime in Ukraine in February.
Ukraine's army units started pouring into Slovyansk on early afternoon Thursday, launching an attack against militants at checkpoints that guard each entrance to the town of 129,000. In the past two weeks Slovyansk has been the epicenter of pro-Russian separatist zeal in the Donetsk region of Ukraine, which has made it a target for Ukraine's authorities.
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