News / Europe

    Ukraine Reinstates Conscription as Security Deteriorates in Eastern Region

    After storming the prosecutor's office, pro-Russia activists stand guard with officers' shields at the entrance in Donetsk, Ukraine, May 1, 2014.
    After storming the prosecutor's office, pro-Russia activists stand guard with officers' shields at the entrance in Donetsk, Ukraine, May 1, 2014.
    VOA News
    Ukraine's acting President Olexander Turchynov has reinstated military conscription to deal with deteriorating security in the east of the country.

    Turchynov signed the decree on Thursday, the same day pro-Russian militants seized the regional prosecutor’s office in the eastern city of Donetsk.
     
    The decree reinstates the draft for non-exempt Ukrainian men between 18 and 25 years old and cites what it describes as "the further aggravation of the socio-politcal situation" in eastern and southern Ukraine, as well as "blatant aggression" by "illegal" armed pro-Russian groups.

    The move comes a day after Turchynov said that his government was "helpless" to quell the growing pro-Russian separatist movement in two eastern regions and could not control its own troops.

    Earlier Thursday, pro-Russian protesters stormed the prosecutor's office in the separatist-held city of Donetsk, lobbing stones and smashing windows after accusing the office of working for the Western-backed government in Kyiv.

    To shouts of "Fascists", a refrain Moscow uses to describe Ukraine's new government, hundreds of people pelted the police with paving stones and then cornered some, dragging them to the ground and beating them. The police soon surrendered.

    Donetsk, a city of about one million people in Ukraine's industrial east, is at the center of an armed uprising across the steel and coal belt by mainly Russian-speakers threatening to secede from Ukraine.

    The violence, in a city already largely under the control of separatists, underscored the shifting security situation and suspicions in the region.

    "The prosecutor's office was issuing criminal orders from Kyiv against its own people, charging them with separatism and other fake crimes," said one protester, a 43-year-old man from Donetsk who gave his name as Igor.

    Pro-Russian separatists in the city have declared a "People's Republic of Donetsk" and say they will hold a referendum on secession on May 11.

    Related video report by Arash Arabasadi and Brian Padden:
     
    Separatists Hold Ukrainian Cities; Local Defense in Kyiv Stands Firmi
    X
    Brian Padden, Arash Arabasadi
    May 01, 2014 8:39 PM
    In eastern Ukraine, separatists continue to seize and occupy government buildings, while in Kyiv, the capital, protesters continue their occupation of Maidan Square. Despite an agreement made in Geneva requiring all groups to disarm, there's no end in sight to the standoff. Arash Arabasasdi reports from Kyiv.

    Russian attache detained for spying

    Ukraine also ordered the expulsion of Russia's military attache, saying it had caught him ``red-handed'' receiving classified information on the country's cooperation with NATO during an armed uprising Kyiv said is directed from Moscow.
     
    The Foreign Ministry said on Thursday the diplomat, who has not been named, had been detained a day earlier and declared persona non grata.

    Ukraine's security service said he was a Russian intelligence officer who had been collecting intelligence on ``Ukrainian-NATO military and political cooperation.”

    There was no immediate response from Moscow, which, like Kyiv, was observing the May 1 holiday.

    The crisis in Ukraine will dominate talks between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Barack Obama in Washington on Friday, with both leaders keen to show the West is united in its resolve to take even tougher measures against Russia if necessary.
     
    The U.S. and European Union both imposed new sanctions against Moscow on Monday, accusing Russia of failing to implement a diplomatic accord aimed at calming the situation in Ukraine.
     
    Merkel and Obama will discuss at what point further measures - targeting the Russian economy directly - could be taken, senior German officials said.
     
     
    Members of Russian Trade Unions march during the May Day celebration at the Red Square in Moscow on May 1, 2014.Members of Russian Trade Unions march during the May Day celebration at the Red Square in Moscow on May 1, 2014.
    x
    Members of Russian Trade Unions march during the May Day celebration at the Red Square in Moscow on May 1, 2014.
    Members of Russian Trade Unions march during the May Day celebration at the Red Square in Moscow on May 1, 2014.
    Russia's May Day Parade

    Russia staged a huge May Day parade on Moscow's Red Square for the first time since the Soviet era on Thursday, with workers holding banners proclaiming support for President Vladimir Putin after the seizure of territory from neighboring Ukraine.
     
    Thousands of trade unionists marched with Russian flags and flags of Putin's ruling United Russia party onto the giant square beneath the Kremlin walls, past the red granite mausoleum of Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin. About 100,000 people took part in the celebration.

    Many banners displayed traditional slogans for the annual workers' holiday, such as ``Peace, Labour, May.'

    But others were more directly political, alluding to the crisis in neighboring former Soviet republic Ukraine, where Russian troops annexed the Crimea peninsula in March, precipitating the biggest confrontation with the West since the Cold War.

    Putin wants troops out of southeast
     
    Also Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin told Merkel that the withdrawal of Ukrainian military units from the southeast of the country, ending violence and launching a national dialogue are key issues in the Ukraine conflict, the Kremlin said.

    The Kremlin also said that Merkel, in a call it said she initiated, asked Putin to help free seven Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) military observers who are being held by pro-Russian militia in Ukraine.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also called for talks between Kyiv and pro-Russian separatists in southeastern Ukraine.

    "Russia believes that this dialogue between the authorities in Kyiv and their opponents could be established, or launched in the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. We hope that our partners, our Western colleagues allow Ukrainians to establish this dialogue without major impediment," Lavrov said.

    The prime minister spoke during a visit to Peru.

    Thomas Graham, an expert on Russian and Eurasian affairs, said the situation in east Ukraine is difficult to decipher.
     
    "The problem that we have at this point is that everyone thinks someone else controls the situation on the ground,” said Graham, a former U.S. national security official who is managing director at Kissinger Associates Inc.
     
    “And the crisis has moved along far enough that there are a lot of elements on the ground that are acting on their own, without reference necessarily to Moscow, Kyiv, Brussels or Washington,” he said.

    “So, the risk of the incidence that leads to widespread violence -- perhaps bloodshed -- can force the hands of people who have postured themselves in ways that they might regret depending on how things play out on the ground in eastern Ukraine."

    IMF loan has tough requirements

    The director of the IMF's European department, Reza Moghadam, told reporters Thursday that the Washington-based agency expects Ukraine to meet all its financial obligations, even as it teeters on the brink of bankruptcy. That includes $2.2 billion it owes Russia for natural gas purchases.

    The IMF announced a $17 billion loan package for Ukraine over the next two years, and the World Bank, the European Union, Japan , Canada and the United States have pledged another $15 billion. The loans come with a requirement that Kyiv undertake economic reforms, including tax hikes, wage freezes and cuts in social aid.

    But Moghadam acknowledged that the $17 billion IMF loan is not as big as it appears. He said $5 billion of the figure is meant for Ukraine to pay back money it already owes the IMF from a previous loan.

    VOA's Catherine Maddux contributed to this report from Washington. Some information for this report provided by RFE/RL, Reuters, AP

    Photo Gallery: Images from Ukraine
    • Pro-Russia protesters storm the governor's business premises in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, May 3, 2014.
    • Pro-Russia protesters storm the governor's business premises in Donetsk, Ukraine, May 3, 2014.
    • Pro-Russian protesters gather to honor fallen comrades during fighting with pro-Ukrainian activists in Odessa on Friday, at the barricades in front of the administration building in Donetsk, Ukraine, May 3, 2014.
    • Russia's presidential human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin watches as foreign military observers hug each other following their release in Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, May 3, 2014.
    • Smoke billows from burning tires at a pro-Russian checkpoint with a Donetsk republic flag following an attack by Ukrainian troops in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, May 3, 2014.
    • A protester walks past a burning pro-Russian tent camp near the trade union building in Odessa, Ukraine, May 2, 2014.
    • An injured pro-Russian activist looks on during clashes with supporters of the Kyiv government in the streets of Odessa, Ukriane, May 2, 2014.
    • People wait to be rescued on upper levels of a trade union building in Odessa, Ukraine, May 2, 2014.
    • A pro-Russian separatist guards a checkpoint as tires burn in front of him, near the town of Slovyansk, Ukraine, May 2, 2014.
    • Pro-Russian gunmen listen to instructions from their commander (center) behind barricades in Slovyansk, May 2, 2014.
    • A pro-Russian rebel aims his rifle at a checkpoint near a Ukrainian airbase in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, May 2, 2014.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments page of 2
     Previous    
    by: meanbill from: USA
    May 01, 2014 10:25 AM
    Like the Russians said; -- Only the Ukrainians themselves can save what's left of Ukraine, by both sides negotiating with each other, (without outside interference), to form a new constitution and hold democratic elections, to preserve what's left of the country..
    WHY doesn't everybody listen to Russia, when they offer the only solution to the Ukraine peaceful crisis? --- REALLY?

    by: Jon from: IL
    May 01, 2014 9:54 AM
    I do not think Putin's attempts at intimidation are going to work. He has seen the world's defiance its protests and condemnation of his attempts to conquer another sovereign nation and is trying to build up his nerve before he proceeds with his plan. We need to make him very much afraid of the consequences of what we will do if does not back down.
    In Response

    by: tenn fan from: tenn
    May 02, 2014 2:15 AM
    Jon from IL, As for your comments "We need tomake him very much afraid of the consequences of what we will do if he does not back down" first off i noticed that you used a lot of "we this and we that ", IMHO, and from what i gather from your comments is just about the same thing as me trying to tell you how to spend your own money. In other words it would be like me sitting back and telling you how to spend your money, First off,it is not my money (it is your money) that i am telling you how to spend,correct ? So explain to me, just what right do i have to try and tell you just how to spend your own money? That is just about the same thing, as when you try to tell Putin how to run Russia. Please answer this question,just who has the right (outside of Russia and its own citizens) to tell Putin just how to run his own country ? Just like who has the right (outside of America and the American citizens) to try and tell Obama just how to run America? Get my drift ? That being said,i would just like to wish you and everyone that reads this a very nice week end.
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