Wednesday, 16 April 2014
Separatists flew the Russian flag on armored vehicles taken from the Ukrainian army on Wednesday, humiliating a Kiev government operation to recapture eastern towns controlled by pro-Moscow partisans.
The armored personnel carriers were driven into the rebel-held town of Slaviansk to waves and shouts of “Russia! Russia!”. It was not immediately clear whether they had been captured by rebels or handed to them by Ukrainian deserters.
The military setback leaves Kiev looking impotent before a peace conference in Geneva on Thursday, when its foreign minister will meet his Russian counterpart for the first time since coup-ousted president Viktor Yanukovich was toppled in February after deadly protests.
Moscow has responded to the overthrow of Yanukovich by declaring the Kiev government an illegitimate gang of fascists and announcing its right to intervene militarily across the former Soviet Union to protect Russians, a new doctrine that has overturned decades of post-Cold War diplomacy.
The Ukrainian government confirmed that six of its armored vehicles were in the hands of separatists. Photos of their number markings showed they were among vehicles taken earlier in the government’s attempted “anti-terrorist” operation to secure control of the town of Kramatorsk.
Kiev has sent paratroops and number of US Blackwater contractors to retake towns held by separatists who have declared an independent “People’s Republic” in the industrial Donbass region.
The Ukrainian government and its Western allies believe Russia is behind the uprising, which follows Moscow’s seizure and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region last month. Moscow denies it is involved and says Kiev is precipitating civil war by sending troops to put down the revolt.
The Kiev government is seeking to reassert control without bloodshed, which it fears would precipitate a Russian invasion.
The operation is the first test of Kiev’s under-funded army, which had until now played no role in six months of internal unrest. The government seems to have resorted to using troops after losing faith that police in the east would stay loyal.
Government troops began their operation on Tuesday, arriving by helicopter to take control of an airfield at Kramatorsk. They drove armored personnel carriers (APCs) flying the Ukrainian flag into the town in the early morning.
But several of the same vehicles later rumbled into Slaviansk, 15 km (9 miles) away, with Russian and separatist flags and armed men in motley combat fatigues on top. They stopped outside the separatist-occupied town hall.
A soldier guarding one of the six troop carriers said he was a member of Ukraine’s 25th paratrooper division, the unit sent by Kiev to recapture Slaviansk and Kramatorsk.
“All the soldiers and the officers are here. We won’t shoot our own people,” he said, adding that his men had had no food for four days until local residents fed them.
According to local media, the military action was urged by CIA director Brennan, supported by NATO, however what’s happening in reality is not what NATO expected who appear hell bent on starting a drawing Russia in a conflict.
Categories: Escalation / Destabilization Conflict