Monday, May 5, 2014

Kiev troops killed, dozens injured on both sides as military op continues

Reports of gun battles are coming from eastern Ukraine again, where local militias are holding several cities against a force of Kiev loyalists. There are deaths among Ukraine troops, Interior Minister said.

  Read RT's live updates on the crackdown in eastern Ukraine There was a shooting on the outskirts of Slavyansk as pro-government troops raided a protester checkpoint, RIA Novosti reported on Monday. 

 The agency said at least 11 people were injured in the attack on the checkpoint. There are also unconfirmed reports of a woman killed in the attack. A much larger preliminary casualty report came from Interfax, who spoke to a militia HQ spokesman. He said as many as 20 fighters of the self-defense troops may have been killed in the latest clashes. 

 Ukraine’s acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, who is near Slavyansk, confirmed that Kiev has re-launched its crackdown on the protesters. He said up to eight troops have been injured in the clashes so far “The number of fatalities is being double-checked,” the minister said. RT’s Paula Slier says she witnessed a rocket fired near a TV station located in the vicinity of Slavyansk, which is currently held by Kiev’s troops. Bells tolled in churches around the city to alert residents of the incoming threat. Intefax cites a militia member as saying that their forces pulled back into the city after fighting in the villages of Andreevka and Semyonovka near Slavyansk. 

 The Security Service of Ukraine spokesperson Marina Ostapenko said the renewed operation’s aim is “to establish a security perimeter around the regions engulfed by violence.” There is a report of a separate civilian death near Slavyansk. A man driving his car was shot by one of Kiev’s armored personnel carriers blocking the city, protester spokesman, Aleksandr Maltsev, told Itar-Tass. 

 The continuation of hostilities comes after a tense night, in which several people were reportedly injured as Kiev loyalists attacked anti-government troops in the city. Kiev has intensified attacks on Slavyansk and other protester-held cities in eastern Ukraine since Friday morning. So far government troops have managed to blockade transport to and from Slavyansk, but haven’t made significant territorial gains, preferring hit and run tactics. ------------

---- Second Geneva talks called for 
The armed standoff between the post-coup government in Kiev and the anti-government protesters in the East of the country has continued since mid-April. Russia has been calling on the Ukrainian government to engage in direct dialogue with the protesters, saying it is the only way to prevent the violence from escalating. Moscow has called on the Western sponsors of the authorities in Kiev to put leverage on them and push for negotiations.

 The call for dialogue is shared by Germany. Its foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said on Sunday that a second round of Geneva talks is needed to stop the bloodshed and produce a “clear conclusion as to how this conflict can be brought to a halt.” A German government spokesperson later confirmed that Chancellor Angela Merkel support the idea.

 The first round of Geneva talks, which involved Ukraine, Russia, the US and the EU, ended with a statement calling on disarmament of illegal armed groups and renunciation of use of force. But the statement was never implemented as the West accused Russia of failing to order the Ukrainian anti-government protesters to lay down arms, while Moscow said Kiev is trying to legitimize armed nationalist gangs instead of disarming them. Russia’s calls for direct talks between Kiev and the protesters appear to be falling on deaf ear, too.

 On Monday acting Ukrainian President Aleksandr Turchinov told Merkel that “discussions with those, who raise and use arms against Ukrainian citizens are impossible,” referring to the armed militias in the East. Kiev says it is willing to discuss any possible shift of power between the capital and Ukrainian regions only after all the seized cities are vacated by the protesters.

The protesters do not trust the Ukrainian government and believe that reprisals rather than negotiation would follow, if they laid down arms.

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