Ukraine arrests 70 pro-Russians in ‘anti-terrorist’ operation in eastern city

April 8, 2014 | By | Reply More

Apr 08, – Police arrested 70 pro-Russian demonstrators in Kharkiv on Tuesday, as protesters in two other cities held similar standoffs. Ukrainian authorities gave few details of the operation that cleared the building in Kharkiv but said two police had been wounded by a grenade.

hromedia Ukraine arrests 70 pro-Russians in 'anti-terrorist' operation in eastern city eu news2The fight erupted hours after Ukraine launched an “anti-terrorist” operation against pro-Russian separatists occupying government buildings in several of its eastern cities.

A brawl erupted in the Ukrainian parliament chamber on Tuesday after the country’s communist leader accused nationalists of playing into the hands of Russia by adopting extreme tactics early in the Ukrainian crisis.

Two deputies from the Svoboda far-right nationalist party took exception to the charges by communist Petro Symonenko and seized him while he was talking from the rostrum. His party supporters rallied to his defence and a brawl broke out with deputies from other parties joining in and trading punches.

Against the backdrop of the deepening crisis in the south-east, Symonenko stirred nationalist anger in parliament when, referring to the pro-Russian protesters who had seized buildings in eastern Ukraine, he suggested that nationalists had set a precedent earlier this year by seizing public buildings in protest at the rule of the ousted president, Viktor Yanukovych.

Now, he said, armed groups were attacking people who wanted to defend their rights by peaceful means.

“You are today doing everything to intimidate people. You arrest people, start fighting people who have a different point of view,” he said, before being pulled away from the rostrum by the Svoboda deputies.

Symonenko did not appear to have been hurt in the brawl involving other deputies. But one deputy later resumed his seat in the chamber with scratches on his face clearly showing.

The communists backed Yanukovych and his Regions Party through the three months leading up to him fleeing the country on Feb. 21 after more than 100 people were shot dead by police snipers in Kiev.

Ukrainian special forces in combat gear, helmets and balaclavas and carrying machine guns stood guard outside the building early on Tuesday. A partly destroyed sign near the main door read: “Avakov – to jail”, a reference to the Ukrainian interior minister, Arsen Avakov.

Avakov made mention of the operation to clear the buildings on his Facebook page: “An anti-terrorist operation has been launched. The city centre is blocked along with metro stations. Do not worry. Once we finish, we will open them again.”

The Interfax-Ukraine news agency quoted the interior ministry saying those detained were suspected of “illegal activity related to separatism, the organisation of mass disorder, damage to human health” and breaking other laws.

Ukraine’s acting president, Oleksander Turchinov, made a televised address to the nation in which he accused Moscow of orchestrating the protests in an attempt to repeat “the Crimea scenario”.

Russia has denied Ukrainian charges of involvement but warned Kiev against any use of force against Russian-speakers. On Tuesday, Russia’s foreign ministry called on Kiev to stop massing military forces it said were tasked with suppressing anti-government protests in the south-east of the country.

“We call for an immediate halt to military preparations which could lead to an outbreak of civil war,” the ministry said in a statement.

The pro-Russian protesters still barricaded inside official buildings in Luhansk and Donetsk demanded that referendums be held on whether to join Russia, similar to the one that preceded Moscow’s annexation of Crimea.

Press coordinator for HRO media – Ignacio Damigo contributed to this report.

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Category: European Crises

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