Escalation / Destabilization Conflict

Tensions rise as Ukraine’s military hardware pulls up to eastern border with Russia

Published time: March 16, 2014 21:30                                                                            

Ukrainian tanks take part in a military exercise near Kharkiv March 14, 2014 (Reuters / Stringer)Ukrainian tanks take part in a military exercise near Kharkiv March 14, 2014 (Reuters / Stringer)

Ukrainian heavy military equipment, including armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles are heading towards the Russian border, while the eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk are protesting the entry of Ukrainian military hardware.

Residents have uploaded various videos of the heavy military  equipment moving through the eastern Ukrainian regions. The  process triggered protests which erupted in the cities of  Kharkov, Donetsk and Lugansk.

On Thursday local activists of Lugansk and Donetsk regions   blocked the columns carrying the military  equipment. Near Donetsk, the Donbas people’s militia forced the  Ukrainian troops to turn around, while in Lugansk the activists  stopped the columns, setting up a 24-hour patrol guarding the  military equipment and preventing its further movement.  
In addition the tensions in the east are escalated by the partial  closure of the border, which was admitted by Ukraine’s Minister  of Internal Affairs.
“To date, the border with the Russian Federation is  practically blocked. This raises tensions in Kharkov and Lugansk  in particular. This is because the Border and National Guard are  blocking passage from Russia [to Ukraine] of civilians with  questionable intentions,” said Arsen Avakov.

There have been concerns that the recently formed National Guard,  the custodian of the coup-imposed government, may be used to  suppress the rising discontent of eastern Ukrainians with the  coup-appointed authorities in Kiev. The Guard which is comprised  of former and current Ukrainian troops and volunteers from Maidan  self-defense squads.

According to Avakov, from 10 to 15 thousand people are to be  mobilized to the Guard till the end of March.

“We suppose that the mobilization will involve all of the  Ukrainian territory in figures of 10 to 15 thousand and will be  carried out in the next 15 days,” he said on Sunday at a  government session.

When it is fully formed the Guard will be comprised of 60,000 men  and women appointed by the Verhovnaya Rada upon the  recommendation of the acting president Turchinov.

Meanwhile, most of the US financial assistance to Ukraine will  focus on the formation and maintenance of the new military, said  a source from the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense as cited by  Itar-Tass.

“Kiev is not planning to fund the army or navy which are in a  deplorable state,” the source said. “The high status of  the National Guard, along with the rights for oversight of  military commanders significantly reduces the prestige of the  army and navy, giving them a minor role. Thus, the Ukrainian  government leaves the issue of strong national defense of the  state, making a bet on the suppression of domestic political  nonconformity.”

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