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Ukrainian city seized by pro-Russia forces

(Reuters) - Armed separatists took virtual control of a city in eastern Ukraine on Saturday and Kiev prepared troops to deal with what it called an "act of aggression by Russia".

Pro-Russian activists carrying automatic weapons seized government buildings in Slaviansk and set up barricades on the outskirts of the city. Official buildings in several neighboring towns were also attacked.

The developments have increased concerns of a possible "gas war" that could disrupt energy supplies across the continent.

"The Ukrainian authorities consider the events of the day as a display of external aggression from Russia," Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said in a statement.

Pro-Russian Gunmen Seize Police Station In Eastern Ukraine

"Units of the interior and defense ministries are implementing an operational response plan," he added.

Russia and Ukraine have been in confrontation since protests in Kiev forced the Moscow-backed president from office, and the Kremlin sent troops to annex Crimea, the home of its Black Sea Fleet and a part of Russia until 1954.

Moscow denies any plan to send in forces or split Ukraine, but the Western-leaning authorities in Kiev believe Russia is trying to create a pretext to interfere again. NATO says Russian armed forces are massing on Ukraine's eastern border, while Moscow says they are on normal manoeuvres.

At least 20 men armed with pistols and rifles took over the police station and a security services headquarters in Slaviansk, a city of over 100,000 people about 150 km (90 miles) from the border with Russia.

Officials said the men had seized hundreds of pistols from arsenals in the buildings. The militants replaced the Ukrainian flag on one of the buildings with the red, white and blue Russian flag.

Washington backed Kiev's assessment that Moscow was responsible. "Worrisome violence in ... Ukraine today. Russia again seems to be behind it," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Twitter.


On a road leading into Slaviansk, other members of the group, armed with automatic rifles, set up a roadblock and checked vehicles entering the city, a Reuters reporter said.

There was no sign of any Ukrainian law enforcement officials in the city.

Ukraine's Western-backed government warned of tough action if the militants did not lay down their weapons, but it was unclear if the local law enforcement agencies were taking orders from Kiev any more after the local police chief quit.

Kostyantyn Pozhydayev came out to speak to pro-Russian protesters at his offices in the regional capital, Donetsk, and told them he was stepping down "in accordance with your demands". Some of his officers left the building.

The protesters occupied the ground floor of the Donetsk police headquarters and a black and orange flag adopted by pro-Russian separatists flew over the building in place of the Ukrainian flag.

The occupations are a potential flashpoint because if protesters are killed or hurt by Ukrainian forces, that could prompt the Kremlin to intervene to protect the local Russian-speaking population, a repeat of the scenario in Crimea.

Oleksandr Turchynov, the acting Ukrainian president, called an emergency meeting of the national security council for Saturday evening to discuss the unrest in the east.

Ukraine's acting foreign minister, Andriy Deshchytsia, said he had spoken by telephone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and demanded Moscow stop what he called "provocative actions" by its agents in eastern Ukraine.

Lavrov, in a statement issued by his ministry, said there were no Russian agents in the region and that it would be "unacceptable" if Ukrainian authorities were to order the storming of the buildings.

Ukrainian commentator Sergei Leshchenko said the burst of activity by pro-Russian groups was an attempt by the Kremlin to give it a strong negotiating position before international talks about Ukraine in Geneva next Thursday.

Russia is expected to argue at the talks for a revamp of Ukraine's constitution to give a large degree of autonomy to eastern Ukraine, something Kiev and its Western backers reject.

"Russia will come to the talks with the position that 'Donetsk and several neighboring regions are already ours - now let's talk about federalization'," said Leshchenko, a commentator with the Ukrainska Pravda newspaper.


With the crisis in Ukraine still unresolved, the gas dispute threatens to affect millions of people across Europe.

A large proportion of the natural gas that EU states buy from Russia is pumped via Ukrainian territory, so if Russia makes good on a threat to cut off Ukraine for non-payment of its bills, customers further west will have supplies disrupted.

Russia is demanding Kiev pay a much higher price for its gas, and settle unpaid bills. Russian state-owned gas giant Gazprom and its Ukrainian counterpart, Naftogaz, are in talks, but the chances of an agreement are slim.

"I would say we are coming nearer to a solution of the situation, but one in the direction that is bad for Ukraine," Ukrainian Energy Minister Yuri Prodan said in an interview with the German newspaper Boersenzeitung

"We are probably steering towards Russia turning off its gas provision," he was quoted as saying.

That raised the specter of a repeat of past "gas wars", when Ukraine's gas was cut off with a knock-on effect on supplies to EU states.

The scope for compromise narrowed after the Naftogaz chief executive told a Ukrainian newspaper that Kiev was suspending payments to Gazprom pending a conclusion of talks on a new deal.

Ukraine has de facto stopped payments already because it failed to make an installment of over $500 million due this month to Russian state gas giant Gazprom.

Moscow says it does not want to turn off Ukraine's gas if it can be avoided, and that it will honor all commitments to supply its EU customers.

(Additional reporting by Conor Humphries in Kiev, Alexei Anishchuk, Alessandra Prentice and Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow, William Schomberg in London, Annika Breidthardt in Berlin, Lina Kushch in Donetsk, Ukraine and Gleb Garanich in Slaviansk, Ukraine; Writing by Christian Lowe and Conor Humphries; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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wizardsking April 12 2014 at 4:12 PM

UN and NATO are broken.
The word SACTION means do nothing.

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1 reply
astronauty wizardsking April 12 2014 at 4:23 PM

When Ukraine resisted Soviet attempts at collectivization in the 1920s and '30s, the Soviet Union under Stalin used labor camps, executions, and starvation (Holodomor) to kill millions of Ukrainians.

In 1933, the recently elected administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt granted official U.S. recognition to the Soviet Union for the first time. Especially repugnant was that this recognition was granted even though Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin had just concluded a campaign of genocide against Ukraine that left over 10 million dead. This atrocity was known to the Roosevelt administration, but not to the American people at large, thanks to suppression of the story by the Western press — as we shall show.

Ukraine's Untold Tragedy

The Ukrainian genocide remains largely unknown. After 76 years, the blood of the victims still cries for truth, and the guilt of the perpetrators for exposure.

Many Americans are barely acquainted with Ukraine, even though it is Europe's second largest country after Russia, and has been a distinct land and people for centuries. One reason for this unfamiliarity is that Ukraine has rarely known political independence; it was under Russia's heel throughout much of its existence — under Soviet domination prior to 1991, and under Czarist Russia before that. Many American students heard little or nothing of Ukraine in their history classes because the nation had been relegated to the status of a Russian "province."

Stalin accomplished genocide against Ukraine by two means. One was massive executions and deportations to labor camps. But his second tool of murder was more unique: an artificial famine created by confiscation of all food. Ukrainians call this the Holodomor, translated by one modern Ukrainian dictionary as "artificial hunger, organized on a vast scale by the criminal regime against the country's population," but often simply translated as "murder by hunger."

Ukraine was the last place one would have expected famine, for it had been known for centuries as the "breadbasket of Europe." French diplomat Blaise de Vigenère wrote in 1573: "Ukraine is overflowing with honey and wax.... The soil of this country is so good and fertile that when you leave a plow in the field, it becomes overgrown with grass after two or three days. It will be difficult to find." The 18th-century British traveler Joseph Marshall wrote: "The Ukraine is the richest province of the Russian empire.... The soil is a black loam.... I think I have never seen such deep plowing as these peasants give their ground."

In the aftermath of the 1917 Russian Revolution, Ukraine became part of a bloody battlefield of fighting between the Bolsheviks (the group that eventually became the Communist Party of the Soviet Union), Czarist Whites, and Ukrainian nationalists. Ultimately, of course, the Bolsheviks prevailed, but Lenin shrewdly recognized that concessions would be necessary to gain Ukraine's cooperation as a member of the unstable young USSR.

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1 reply
Roza Cooper astronauty April 12 2014 at 5:01 PM

There were millions of people in many parts of the former Soviet Union who suffered from Communism side effects. millions of Russian among them, millions of other nationalities which are part of Russia now. Do not present it as it if happen only to Ukrainians.

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dsmithsfamily April 12 2014 at 5:44 PM

hate when this happens. tell them the park needs to be cleaned and kick them all out

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Brad April 12 2014 at 11:14 PM

Look out, here is latest excuse for the crooks to raise the price of gas!! The old BS was running out steam, so here is new one!

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Brenda April 12 2014 at 6:06 PM

If we end up having a new Cold War; would it be a good time to invest in companies that produce weapons for the military?

I'm practicing how to "duck and cover" just in case. (Don't Worry Be Happy)

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1 reply
highhopesn2000 Brenda April 12 2014 at 6:13 PM

If we are to defend ourselves, as before in the 80's, we have to do it by strength of our defenses and policies.
Does anyone out there really think that is going to happen with current status of National Government?

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luvshluxa April 12 2014 at 6:30 PM

Why hasn't our media ever reported on "right sector"? They are a paramilitary NEO-NAZI group that engaged in most of the violence during the "peaceful protests" in Kiev. Their involvement has been reported by the BBC and other European news agencies, but not here... why???

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2 replies
reneesangel1954 luvshluxa April 12 2014 at 6:41 PM

Then read it on BBC troll

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1 reply
luvshluxa reneesangel1954 April 12 2014 at 6:47 PM

That you read only what you are told to read reminds me of the old Soviet Pravda readers. Expand your mind just a little. Travel. Go to Ukraine, as I have. Live there a while, as I have. Meet the people, eat with the friends you make... as I have. Then get back to me once you're educated on the subject.

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tugboy101 luvshluxa April 12 2014 at 10:51 PM

at that time they were freedom fighters

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EUGENE April 12 2014 at 6:35 PM

who gives a F@#$ !! we have enough of those freeloaders in the U.S.A ! we dont need anymore spending on them !

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oytser April 12 2014 at 3:52 PM

Putin is right. Crimea belongs to Russia. It was mistakenly "given" to Ukraine because at that time no one in the then USSR ever foresaw that the USSR would ever break apart. That was the first mistake by Nikita Kruschev. The second and bigger blunder was when Boris Yelstin allowed Ukraine to break off from Russia without retaining Crimea as part of Russia. He should have said to Ukraine, if you want to break off, fine but Crimea stays with Russia. Putin just corrected these two mistakes. The United States, with its glorious record of interferring with so many countries in the name of democracy, has no legs to stand on. After all, one can't tell someone not to do something that you have been doing all along all over the world especially in the Middle East. Checkmate.

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Welcome Justin April 12 2014 at 3:52 PM


Since I can't reply to your comments below, hopefully you will see this and decide to educate yourself on the issue.

How can you say there was only one choice on the Crimean vote ? Because huffpost told you so ? The options were to remain in Ukraine as an autonomous region, as per the referendum of 94, or to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. How are those two options the same ?

Furthermore, if the only thing that has changed is the President, then why have the majority of gov officials in Ukraine either stepped down or been replaced ?

Please look into what you are talking about instead of just regurgitating some rhetoric. This is not huffpost, so you will need more than propaganda.

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1 reply
daveliq Welcome Justin April 12 2014 at 4:05 PM

Great Post I am sick and tired of Huff Puff News. Why do all AOL members be subject to their left views? I for one will leave AOL within the month. Maybe AOL will learn when membership drops and Ad money goes away

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Ghetto Cat April 12 2014 at 3:51 PM

No other country keeps out the colored transients like Russia.

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saed April 12 2014 at 3:50 PM

We and Europe have no business in Ukrain, it's next to Russia let them settle their differences, we don't have the stomach for another war. Fighting Russia is going to be lot different than fighting Iraq or Afganistan especially in their backyard. they are the only country that can destroy us with Nuclear weapon, of course we can destroy them also. We need to keep our nose out of it.

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