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Odessa Announces Independence, Ukraine Army Units Switch Sides,
Anti-Kiev Protesters Seize Ukrainian APCs

By Countercurrents

16 April, 2014

People in Odessa in Ukraine have declared independence as army units sent to the eastern region by the Kiev authorities take positions to assault people opposed to the Kiev rule.

People in the eastern parts of Ukraine have seized armored personnel carriers (APC) while a number of Ukraine army units have switched sides as their APCs were seen flying Russian flags.

The Kiev authority’s military operation against protesting people in the east is not as peaceful. According to activists, four people were killed and two others injured when Kiev troops seized an airfield in Kramatorsk, which had earlier been controlled by protesters.

Media reports that include reports by AP and BBC from Ukraine said:

The anti-Maidan movement against the Kiev coup-imposed government has called for protest action in the southern city of Odessa. The Odessa Anti-Maidan movement website addressed the city’s residents:

“From this day on, the Odessa region is declared the Odessa Popular Republic where the power belongs only to the people who live there. Tomorrow at 4pm [13:00 GMT] Odessa should be ground to a halt! Literally! Your task at the indicated time is to block the transport connections indicated on the map with your cars, pedestrians, go to the zebra crossings and stand there. Create as many traffic jams across the city as possible”.

Kiev’s military faced off with protesters in east Ukraine on Wednesday. Soldiers appeared reluctant to go into battle against anti-government activists.

Six Ukrainian tanks in Kramatorsk switched sides and began flying Russian flags on Wednesday.

A column of APCs flying Russian flags drove into a Ukrainian city of Slovyansk controlled by anti-Kiev authority demonstrators on Wednesday. Some of the troops aboard said they were Ukrainian soldiers who had switched allegiance.

An AP reporter saw the six vehicles with troops in camouflage sitting atop enter Slovyansk.

People in Slovyansk have seized the local police headquarters and administration building, demanding broader autonomy for their eastern Ukraine region and closer ties with Russia.

The vehicles stopped near the city administration building and flew Russian flags while residents chanted "Good job! Good job!"

One of the men who came in the vehicles, who identified himself only as Andrei, said the unit was part of Ukraine's 25th Brigade of Airborne Forces and that they have switched to the side of the pro-Russian forces.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry declined immediate comment.

The Kiev authority is loosing reign on the people, as some security forces have switched over to the side of the insurgents.

When tanks sent by Kiev authority entered downtown Kramatorsk as part of Kiev’s military operation against anti-government protesters, they were stopped in their tracks, surrounded by crowds of local residents.

One YouTube video of what happened next showed a woman coming to a soldier with the reproach: “You are the army, you must protect the people.”

“We are not going to shoot, we weren’t even going to,” is the soldier’s reply.

Similar conversations were heard at each of several tanks which entered the city, with locals promising to defend their neighbors, in case the soldiers start a military operation.

Tanks parked in downtown Kramatorsk have turned into hotspots for political discussion, with people beside the vehicles trying to get their views through to people on top of the tanks.

Another video featured the Kramatorsk crowds loudly chanting “Army with the people” and applauding the soldiers as they were leaving their tanks.

“Guys, we are with you! You are great!” women are heard yelling to the vacating soldiers.

A BBC report said:

Pro-Russian activists in a Lada confronted a Ukrainian tank. The car's occupants pursued the tank across a field - apparently in Slovyansk - and instructed its driver to "turn the engine off".
Eventually, the tank driver shook the hand of one of the crowd and switches the engine off.

Another BBC report said:

Villagers in Novoselovka in eastern Ukraine were filmed trying to stop Ukrainian military vehicles which appeared to be moving towards nearby Kramatorsk airfield. A woman was heard telling a soldier: "They are using both you and us. They are making us clash."

Another BBC report said:

A Ukrainian military convoy - including armored vehicles - has been barricaded by pro-Russia protesters and armed forces in the town of Kramatorsk.

The BBC's James Reynolds was watching as events unfolded and described the situation as "very unusual".

James Reynolds reported from the centre of Kramatorsk:

Ukrainian troops have entered Kramatorsk a day after an operation began to recapture areas seized by anti-government separatists.

But they were blocked by civilians and the situation is unclear, amid reports that some may have abandoned their vehicles or even changed sides.

Kiev authorities have started a military operation against anti-government protesters in eastern Ukraine with air and armored vehicle support, stormed areas occupied by the activists.

Ukrainian military vehicles have entered the streets of Kramatorsk. Around 300 Ukrainian troops are currently in the town.

Anti-government protesters in Kramatorsk are still blocking the exit from the airport. Activists have been camping out in front of the airport gates.

Meanwhile, Slavyansk remains under the control of people.

Kiev’s authority was taking steps to free two soldiers who were reportedly kidnapped by armed men in the eastern province of Lugansk.

Ukrainian authorities’ decision to begin a special armed operation in the eastern part of the country contradicts the Rada’s February decision to ban the use of force against protesters and the use of army troops for raids, deputy spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, wrote in her blog on the ‘Echo Moscow’ website.

The sharp escalation of the Ukraine crisis virtually puts the country on the brink of civil war, Russian President Vladimir Putin told German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a telephone call.

Putin and Merkel discussed the upcoming Ukrainian crisis talks between Russia, Ukraine, the EU and the US, scheduled to be held on Thursday in Geneva.

Putin meanwhile expressed hope that the Geneva talks will help to de-escalate the situation, and return it to peaceful cooperation.

The Russian president also reiterated the importance of stabilizing the Ukrainian economy, and ensuring the supply and transportation of Russian natural gas to Europe.

On Tuesday, Moscow urged international partners to condemn Kiev’s recent "anti-constitutional" actions in southeastern Ukraine, which it believes may lead to catastrophe.

“We are deeply concerned over the military operation launched by the Ukrainian special forces with support by the army. There have already been victims,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Russian diplomats called it a criminal offense for Ukraine to fight against its own people who demand that their lawful rights are preserved. “Current events demonstrate persistent unwillingness of Kiev’s authorities to organize a dialogue with Ukrainian regions, which is necessary for the country,” the statement reads.

However, the US has approached the situation from a different angle, justifying Kiev’s actions against anti-government protesters in the country's eastern region.

"The Ukrainian government has the responsibility to provide law and order and these provocations in eastern Ukraine are creating a situation in which the government has to respond," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Tuesday.

Annie Machon, an analyst and former MI5 agent, believes the US has contributed to the escalation of the crisis in Ukraine.

“State Department official Victoria Nuland boasted that since the fall of the Soviet Union, America has pumped about $5 billion into Ukraine to try and peddle influence in that country. So I don’t think there’s any doubt that Washington has been meddling with the internal politics of Ukraine and continues to do so. But I think this time they’ve miscalculated the wishes of the Ukrainian people,” Machon said.

The mayor's office in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk has not been seized by protesters and such reports could be a provocation, said a spokesman for a local militia group.

Anti-Kiev authority people seized buildings in about 10 towns and cities, demanding greater autonomy or referendums on secession.

NATO is strengthening its military presence in the Baltic and Mediterranean due to the escalation of the Ukrainian crisis. The organization is to deploy ships and intensified aerial patrols in the region.

In Brussels, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen promised "more planes in the air, mores ships on the water, more readiness on the land".

At a meeting of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in Brussels, NATO approved a number of measures to strengthen security in Eastern Europe in connection with the growing crisis in Ukraine.

“Our defense plans will be revised and strengthened,” said Anders Rasmussen, to press in Brussels.

Ukrainian authorities’ decision to begin a special armed operation in the eastern part of the country contradicts the Rada’s February decision to ban the use of force against protesters and the use of army troops for raids, deputy spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, wrote in her blog on the ‘Echo Moscow’ website.



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