Special forces loyal to government and armed men from the radical Right Sector movement launched an operation Sunday to suppress pro-federalization protesters in the east Ukrainian town of Slaviansk, ria.ru reports.
At least three people, including a pro-federalization supporter, were killed in clashes in the town, some 150 kilometers from the border with Russia, while two other activists were injured, activists said.
Pro-federalization activists seized a local administration building, a district police department and a security service office on Saturday.
The leader of the Right Sector movement, Dmytro Yarosh, called on his supporters Saturday to mobilize amid the recent events in eastern Ukraine, where local residents rally in support of federalization.
Ukraine’s Acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on his Facebook page early on Sunday an operation was underway in the city involving “all the country's law enforcement agencies.”
SPECIAL FORCES AND RADICALS
A source with Ukraine’s special forces told RIA Novosti Sunday on condition of anonymity that the restive city of Slaviansk in eastern Ukraine was being stormed by all special forces units from the country’s pro-regime west.
“Every single unit from western Ukraine is now storming Slaviansk,” the source said.
Armed men from the radical Right Sector movement arrived in Slaviansk to participate in the special operation against pro-federalization protesters, a coordinator of the international liberation movement, Vladimir Karasev, said.
“Reports from Slaviansk say that some 150 people dressed in black uniform have arrived at the airfield in the town. According to all indications, they are from the Right Sector,” said Karasev, of the Russian Sector-Ukraine movement initiated by Ukrainians who have left their country fearing violence from the Kiev regime.
Ukraine’s Acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on his Facebook page on Sunday an operation had started in the city involving “all the country's law enforcement agencies” to suppress protesters.
Shots were being heard in the area and helicopters were patrolling the airspace over the town, a RIA Novosti correspondent said.
Regime forces have moved in on federalism protest camps in two more towns in Ukraine’s eastern region, Ilovaisk and Khartsyzsk. Pro-federalization protesters seized government buildings in the towns of Krasny Liman, Kramatorsk, Mariupol and Yenakiyevo.
The health department of the Donetsk regional administration said one person was killed and nine others were injured on Sunday in Slaviansk. Five people received gunshot wounds, while four others were injured on a highway near Artyomovsk.
Ukraine’s Acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said the operation launched by the country’s security forces against protesters in Slaviansk had led to the deaths and injuries on "both sides."
Avakov said on his Facebook page one officer of the Security Service (SBU) was killed and five others, including the head of the SBU anti-terrorist center, were injured in the operation. He also said there were victims among the pro-federalization protesters, without giving further details.
An activist of the protest movement, Nikolai Solntsev, said three people were killed in Slaviansk on Sunday as a result of the operation.
“A total of three people have been killed: two from the so-called Right Sector and one on our side,” he said.
THE SIEGE OF SLAVIANSK
The town of Slaviansk is currently under control of the pro-federalization protesters. A RIA Novosti correspondent said vehicles carrying the activists are traveling around the town. Barricades have been set up around the district police department.
Ways to the October Revolution Square, where the district police department is located, have been partly blocked by the protesters. Some 1,000 local residents have gathered on the square. “We have come here to protect our men from attacks,” one of the participants told RIA Novosti.
FIGHT AGAINST OWN PEOPLE
The so-called “anti-terror” operation unfolding in Ukraine’s eastern town of Slaviansk is a war that the Kiev government has unleashed against its own people and a crime against humanity, said Igor Korotchenko, editor-in-chief of the National Defense magazine.
“The events we are witnessing in Slaviansk indicate that the Kiev regime is waging a war against its own people… A counter-terror operation can only target terrorists, while in Slaviansk local residents have risen to demand the right for the self-identification of the land they live in. They are fighting Slaviansk civilians with the help of special forces, armed vehicles and helicopters,” Korotchenko told RIA Novosti.
The pundit accused Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) chief Valentin Nalivaichenko and Acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov of committing “crimes against humanity,” which should be classified as war crimes under international law.
Ukrainian presidential candidate Oleh Tsarev said Ukrainian authorities have crossed the line and are to blame for the bloodshed in Slaviansk.
“People have been taking to the streets for months, announcing their demands, but authorities refuse to hold talks with them. Negotiations were carried out only through law enforcement, arrests, intimidation, blackmail and today they used force,” Tsarev said.