News / Europe

    Chaos Continues in East Ukraine

    A man cheers after being released from a local police station after it was stormed by pro-Russian protesters in Odessa, Ukraine, on May 4, 2014.
    A man cheers after being released from a local police station after it was stormed by pro-Russian protesters in Odessa, Ukraine, on May 4, 2014.
    VOA News
    Pro-Russian militants stormed a Ukrainian police station in Odessa on Sunday and freed nearly 70 fellow activists as Ukraine’s prime minister blamed police corruption there for dozens of deaths in rioting on Friday.

    About 300 pro-Russian activists forced their way into the Odessa police station, gathering in the courtyard, while about a thousand more surrounded the modern complex.

    "Russians won't abandon their own!" militants chanted as they smashed windows and broke down the gate at the compound, where comrades had been held since Friday's mayhem.

    A spokesman for the regional police said about 170 people were initially detained after pro-Russian activists clashed with supporters of Ukrainian unity on Friday.

    Odessa police said 67 activists had been released.

    As rebellion simmered, questions were raised about the ability of the army as well as police to confront an uprising Kyiv said is backed by Moscow and led in the field by Russian special forces - an accusation the Kremlin denies.

     
    Pro-Ukrainian supporters attend a rally in the central Black Sea port of Odessa, Ukraine, on May 4, 2014.Pro-Ukrainian supporters attend a rally in the central Black Sea port of Odessa, Ukraine, on May 4, 2014.
    x
    Pro-Ukrainian supporters attend a rally in the central Black Sea port of Odessa, Ukraine, on May 4, 2014.
    Pro-Ukrainian supporters attend a rally in the central Black Sea port of Odessa, Ukraine, on May 4, 2014.
    Bank suspends operations

    Ukraine's largest bank has temporarily closed branches in separatist-held Donetsk and Luhansk, saying it could no longer carry out cash transactions in regions riddled with crime that could “threaten the lives” of its workers.
     
    Pro-Russian separatists have targeted Privatbank after its co-owner, billionaire Igor Kolomoisky, was appointed by the new government head of the nearby Dnipropetrovsk region and swiftly announced a $10,000 bounty on the heads of Russian “saboteurs.”
     
    Rebels, who say they want independence from Kyiv, set fire to a branch in the town of Mariupol in the Donetsk region late on Saturday and raided a security truck last week in Horlivka, south of the region's main rebel stronghold.
     
    “In the current circumstances we cannot and do not have the right to make people go to work in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, where armed people break into bank branches and seize security vans in the towns,” Privatbank said in a statement.
     
    Kolomoisky, Ukraine's fourth richest man according to Forbes magazine, has become a hate figure for the pro-Russian separatists.

    Critical of police

    Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, speaking in Odessa on Sunday, accused Russia of engineering Friday's clashes there that led to the deaths of more than 40 pro-Russian activists in a blazing building.

    But he was pointedly critical of the police.

    Yatsenyuk suggested the Odessa police were more interested in the fruits of corruption than maintaining order. Had they done their job, he said, ``these terrorist organizations would have been foiled.”

    Odessa's police chief was fired on Saturday and Yatsenyuk said other changes in leadership were planned.

    “The prosecutor's office is to investigate everyone - starting with the chief of police, his deputies and every single police officer," Yatsenyuk said, according to the BBC.

    Russia, which annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in March, said it would try to organize talks between Kyiv and representatives from the southeast: "It appears that without external help the Kyiv authorities are not capable of establishing such a dialogue," Russian deputy foreign minister Grigory Karasin told Rossiya-24 television.

    Germany's foreign minister also said he was pressing for a second international conference at Geneva to bring Russia and Ukraine together with the United States and European Union to settle the dispute.

    Moscow and Kyiv accuse each other of wrecking a four-way accord to end the conflict signed at Geneva on April 17.

    Elsewhere on Sunday, witnesses and experts said several dozen Russian planes including what appeared to be strategic bombers and fighter jets have been spotted in the sky above the Moscow-controlled peninsula of Crimea.

    According to Russian media, President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to visit Crimea on Friday after overseeing the main military parade on the Red Square when Russia celebrates its victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

    A local aviation expert told AFP on Sunday that he had sighted a number of planes over the peninsula's main city of Simferopol on Saturday, including supersonic heavy strategic bombers and heavy military transport aircraft.

    The expert, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he had also seen refueling tankers and MiG-29 jets.
     
    Ukrainian police and paratroopers check a car as they and other comrades block a road outside the town of Slovyansk, Ukraine, on May 4, 2014.Ukrainian police and paratroopers check a car as they and other comrades block a road outside the town of Slovyansk, Ukraine, on May 4, 2014.
    x
    Ukrainian police and paratroopers check a car as they and other comrades block a road outside the town of Slovyansk, Ukraine, on May 4, 2014.
    Ukrainian police and paratroopers check a car as they and other comrades block a road outside the town of Slovyansk, Ukraine, on May 4, 2014.

    Worst fighting since February

    Friday's clashes were the deadliest since Moscow-oriented president Viktor Yanukovich was forced to flee in February and pro-Russian militants launched uprisings in the industrial east. They also marked the first serious disorder beyond eastern areas since Yanukovich fell, heralding possible trouble for Kyiv.

    Kyiv is organizing a presidential election for May 25. However, as things stand, it would have trouble conducting the vote in many parts of the east, a circumstance that would allow Russia to declare any government emerging as bereft of legitimacy.

    Separatists who have declared a "People's Republic of Donetsk” are planning a referendum on secession on May 11.

    The Ukraine army suffered an embarrassing upset near the eastern town of Mariupol when soldiers at a checkpoint accepted food offered to them by a group presenting themselves as public-spirited citizens. Such donations have been common in recent weeks, as Ukraine's forces suffer a serious lack of resources.

    The food had been laced with a sleeping potion. Once incapacitated, the soldiers were then bundled off along with their weapons, prompting long talks to free them. The five soldiers, taken prisoner on Saturday, were released on Sunday.

    The capital Kyiv has remained quiet since the protests that forced Yanukovich to flee to Russia. But celebrations this week marking the anniversary of the Soviet victory in World War Two could be a source of tension.

    Some information for this report provided by AFP, Reuters, AP.

    You May Like

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Forced Anal Testing Case to Appear Before Kenya Court

    Men challenge use of anal examinations to ‘prove homosexuality’; practice accomplishes nothing except to humiliate those subjected to them, according to Human Rights Watch

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora