News / Europe

Uncertainty Clouds Ukrainian Military Strategy

The self-styled mayor of Slovyansk, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, speaks with journalists near the mayor's office in Slovyansk, Ukraine, April 28, 2014.
The self-styled mayor of Slovyansk, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, speaks with journalists near the mayor's office in Slovyansk, Ukraine, April 28, 2014.
While Ukrainian officials in Kyiv say their military campaign to clear Moscow-backed separatists from Ukraine’s troubled east is proceeding, the operation seems to be stalling amid indecision and fear of provoking Russian retaliation.

Local Ukrainian commanders say their biggest challenge is determining whom to trust among local law-enforcement agencies in the depressed Donbas region, which is at the heart of the pro-Russian militancy.

The military campaign is drawn from Interior Ministry Special Forces units and anti-terrorist squads from Ukraine’s intelligence service, the SBU.

“We think they share information with the separatists,” an SBU colonel in the town of Kramatorsk told VOA.

Despite establishing their own checkpoints, the pro-Kyiv units seem incapable of blocking the insurgents’ movement – and that of the pro-Ukrainian politicians and activists they’ve abducted – across the region.

Slovyansk’s separatist leader and self-proclaimed “mayor,”  Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, a former Soviet soldier and soap factory owner, told reporters this weekend that his troops were holding dozens of people suspected of being “spies” or “fascists,” many seized from neighboring towns.

OSCE monitors held

That was in addition to the eight military observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) taken captive Friday. One was freed Sunday.

Insurgents also captured three Ukrainian security service officers on Sunday and later displayed them to the press stripped to their underpants, bloodied and blind-folded.

Human Rights Watch said Monday that it had documented the kidnapping by Slovyansk gunmen of “more than two dozen people, including journalists, political activists, international military observers.”  

The OSCE kidnappings seem to have halted Kyiv’s anti-separatist operations, although Ukrainian officials deny this.

Denis Pushilin, head of the self-styled Donetsk People’s Republic, passed through at least two pro-Kyiv checkpoints over the weekend while driving 100 kilometers north from Donetsk to Slovyansk to attend a press conference. A day earlier, Ukrainian officials had insisted they’d isolate the town by encircling it with checkpoints.

Pro-Russian checkpoints that had been cleared late last week were back in insurgents’ hands, with camouflaged gunmen and club-wielding youths standing by to protect them. Kyiv officials contend the gunmen are Russian soldiers, which they deny.

Pro-Kyiv anti-terrorist units made no effort to stop separatists from restaffing the barricades or setting up just outside Kramatorsk airport.

Separatists on Monday attacked the pro-Kyiv forces with rocket-propelled grenades, according to Dmytro Tymchuk, coordinator of a military information group. Two Interior Ministry soldiers were wounded in the attack.

A VOA reporter was stopped on Sunday by heavily armed, masked gunmen in combat fatigues while approaching Kramatorsk’s small airport. Pro-Kyiv anti-terrorist units are using it as a base.

During questioning, the reporter witnessed a young couple - who had delivered food to soldiers at the airport - being harangued and then bundled into a blue van. They reportedly were sent to nearby Slovyansk. “They were bandits,” one of the gunmen said.  

Frustration abounds

An SBU officer expressed frustration to VOA, saying Kyiv keeps issuing confusing instructions and shifting on-the-ground strategy, mainly out of fear that a more determined crackdown would lead to casualties. That might provoke Russia to order its massed forces across the border to intervene, as Moscow keeps threatening.

The SBU officer said trying to counter the Moscow-backed separatists was like trying to burst a balloon by squeezing it: “We push in one place and they move somewhere else.”

Separatists have stepped up a campaign targeting local pro-Kyiv politicians.

The mayor of Kharkiv, Hennadiy Kernes, traditionally considered pro-Russia, was shot in the back and critically wounded on Monday.

Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, had been the scene of clashes over the weekend between pro-Kyiv soccer fans and pro-Russia supporters. Several people were injured, local authorities said.

The attack on Kharkiv’s mayor came just days after the body of Volodymyr Rybak, a local pro-Kyiv politician, was found in a river near Slovyansk.

Ukrainian authorities blame Ponomaryov and Russian military intelligence officers for the murder.

Ukrainian SBU officials say the Russians decided to kill the politician after he tried to raise the national flag on the municipal building in the town of Horlivka.

Slovyansk’s “people’s mayor” denies the allegation, saying the politician was killed by Ukrainian ultranationalists.

You May Like

French Refugee Drama Wins Cannes Top Prize

Dheepan is about a group of Sri Lankan refugees who pretend to be a family in order to flee their war-torn country for a housing project in France More

Photogallery Crisis in Macedonia Requires Meaningful and Swift Measures

The international community has called on Macedonian leadership to take concrete measures in support of democracy in order to exit the crisis More

Activists: IS Executes 217 Civilians, Soldiers Near Palmyra

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said the victims include nurses, women, children and Syrian government fighters More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Guest from: Future
April 29, 2014 7:16 AM
You can see an interview of Slovyansk’s Leader Vyacheslav Ponomaryov or Leader of Donetsk Denis Pushilin. For comparison next video:
It is interesting!!! You can see the interview of wife of leader "Right sector" Dmitry Yarosh. Dmitry Yarosh is Presidential candidate of Ukraine.

If Dmitry Yarosh will win in election the First Lady of US should talk, smile and kiss with this Mad woman. Please estimate gesture, pose during interview, tearfulness without reason and other factors. If translate her speech it is delirium. Please find psychiatrist in US with knowledge of Russian language and doctor will estimate this woman as inadequate. I translated some details from hir speech briefly:-"Obama and Putin are both fascists. They want to destroy the world. I am fear" (she crays). Do you wish to see this mad woman near Mishel Obama in White House?Do you want to see that Mishel Obama gives this mad woman haloperidol (an antipsychotic medication)?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs