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Putin wants troops out of Ukraine's east



DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that Ukraine should withdraw its military units from the eastern and southern regions of the country, where anti-government insurgents are seizing buildings, but hours later, Ukraine's acting president ordered the military draft be renewed as the unrest intensifies.

Although Ukraine last year announced plans to end military conscription and transfer to an all-volunteer force, Oleksandr Turchynov said in his order that the draft must be renewed in light of "threats of encroachment on Ukraine's territorial integrity and interference by Russia in the internal affairs of Ukraine."

Moscow has consistently denounced Ukrainian security forces' largely ineffectual "anti-terrorist" operation against the eastern insurgents and warned they shouldn't commit violence against civilians. In a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Putin said the removal of military units from the south and east was the "main thing," but it was unclear if that could be construed as an outright demand.

Turchynov's order didn't specify where conscript-bolstered forces could be deployed. Earlier in the week, he said police and security forces had been effectively "helpless" against insurgents in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the heart of the unrest, and that efforts should be focused on preventing its spread to other parts of the country.

In the regional capital city of Donetsk, anti-government demonstrators took over the regional prosecutor's office Thursday. Several dozen riot police standing guard at the regional prosecutor's office fired stun grenades and tear gas when some at the front of the crowd of several hundred people attempted to force their way into the building in Donetsk.

As the confrontation escalated, some in the crowd threw rocks and managed to wrest away shields from police. An Associated Press reporter saw a handful of officers being dragged away and beaten by members of the crowd.

Hundreds of onlookers accompanying the protesters, who included several crying children, shouted slogans and hurled abuse.

A car outside the building blared out patriotic World War II music. Inside, a passenger waved a flag bearing a doctored image of Soviet leader Josef Stalin in a black vest and holding a machine gun superimposed with the words: "Death to Fascism."

Upon occupying the building, protesters discarded the Ukrainian flag and replaced it with that of the Donetsk People's Republic - a movement that seeks either greater autonomy from the central government, or independence and possible annexation by Russia.

Donetsk is the heartland of support for Russia-friendly former President Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in February after months of protests in the capital. Opponents of the government that succeeded him have seized buildings in about a dozen cities and towns in eastern Ukraine.

Local news website Novosti Donbassa reported that earlier in the day around 30 armed men arrived in six cars in the town of Amvrosiivka, which lies close to the Russian border, and took over the city council and forced the mayor to resign.

On Wednesday, insurgents took control of the customs service building in Donetsk and city hall in Alchevsk, an industrial center of about 110,000 people, adding to the scores of buildings taken by the separatists over the past month in the east, where a dozen cities are now in the hands of the separatists.

There has also been a spate of reported kidnappings of pro-government politicians. The Svodoba nationalist party said a local party branch leader in Kostiantynivka, 65 kilometers (40 miles) north of Donetsk, initially managed to fight off attackers at his home, but was taken away as he was phoning for help.

Turchynov has twice proclaimed "anti-terrorist" operations to regain control of the east, but to little effect.

Unlike many recent seizures of the government offices, the assault on the prosecutor's office appeared to have been spearheaded by people armed with little more than sticks. At least one young man was seen by an Associated Press reporter with a handgun tucked into his trousers, however. At least one firebomb was thrown at the building during the clash.

The armed element of the insurgency is focused on Slovyansk, a city 110 kilometers (70 miles) north of Donetsk in which seven European observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe remain held by pro-Russia gunmen.

Merkel on Thursday again called Putin and asked for his assistance in freeing the group. A spokeswoman for Merkel said the focus of the phone conversation between the two leaders was on the "the continuing hostage-taking of the OSCE observers by separatists in eastern Ukraine." Spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz said in a statement that Merkel "appealed to the president to use his influence" in resolving the situation.

Russia denies allegations from Kiev and the West that it is influencing or fomenting the unrest in eastern Ukraine. The Kremlin also confirmed the conversation and said Putin stressed "the main thing was for Ukraine to withdraw its troops from southeastern Ukraine, stop the violence and quickly start a broad national dialogue on constitutional reform."

On Wednesday, Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said it had detained the military attache at Russia's embassy on suspicion of spying and would remove him from the country. Russia has made no public comment on the issue.

Join the discussion

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hamcallk5co May 01 2014 at 4:47 PM

It's time to get out the long rifles, Ukrainians! Long distance shots and knock down anything Russian on two feet. Make the bastard pay and you'll see an unhappy Russian public turn on Putin; a squirt rolled up in a slime-ball.

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punnster May 01 2014 at 9:24 PM

You have to admire the people in Ukraine for facing such odds. Too bad we do so little to support them.

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2 replies
spanker punnster May 01 2014 at 9:27 PM

Can't do too much, as we will never go to war with russia over the ukraine

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Yelena, Hanna punnster May 01 2014 at 10:16 PM

Thank you for saying that.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
RockNHula May 01 2014 at 4:23 PM

This situation is about to explode in all of our faces. Better to stay out, for now.

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1 reply
ardeiat RockNHula May 01 2014 at 4:41 PM

Remember the habit of that bird called ostrich! Do you think that agressors would take care of that and leave you in peace? No Sir, they will starve and swallow you faster than opposing people!

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vladswim May 01 2014 at 4:23 PM

If the motherland must uses nuclear force to stop Western aggression on Russian borders such as NATO expansion or government overthrows then so be it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rElV_w_DPQ

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2 replies
Mick Got vladswim May 01 2014 at 4:30 PM

It won't have to, even tanks are not needed, Russian can urinate on idiots' faces with no military equipment. They are brutal and ballish enough.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
robtucan vladswim May 01 2014 at 4:40 PM

You are ONE SAD person. May Gob bless you anyway.

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1 reply
vladswim robtucan May 01 2014 at 5:07 PM

How am I one sad person? You think Russia will bow down and lick America's butthole like all of Europe is doing right? Don't think so buddy.

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rskypilot May 01 2014 at 4:21 PM

Putin you crossed a international border to another country and this is WRONG - you can say all you want about who strated this - but Putin broke international law -

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2 replies
miketez rskypilot May 01 2014 at 4:25 PM

There really is no such thing as "international law". GW Bush wanted to invade Iraq, so he just did it. Libya? Supplying weapons to terrorists in Syria. International law doesn't exist.

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rgkarasiewicz rskypilot May 01 2014 at 4:25 PM

Wrong Kemosabe. It was Obama who infiltrated, and subsequently instilled chaos and anarchy into Ukraine.

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3 replies
uberubu May 01 2014 at 9:28 PM

Putin wants the Ukranian troops out of the east so that Russian forces can move in unopposed. It's just a powerplay for an eventual takeover of the country in Putin's attempt to resurrect the Soviet Union.

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3 replies
marinacrandall May 01 2014 at 4:18 PM

The Kiev government, with West backing, has chosen to use tanks and heavy artillery against its own people in Eastern Ukraine. Clearly, this situation proves that the Western-backed regime change has failed and that the West can only bring chaos and division. The most likely way that this crisis will be resolved will be when, after a certain amount of blood has been spilled, the West recognizes the failure of its adventure and drops its support of the Maidan government altogether. At that point, the West will pull out of Ukraine, leaving behind a ruined country.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
2 replies
Mick Got marinacrandall May 01 2014 at 4:20 PM

Too late, I think the mass of retarded kids that posted in the past hour have gone back to class for history lesson.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
rgkarasiewicz marinacrandall May 01 2014 at 4:23 PM

The only way that the West will pull out of Ukraine is after they have plundered and looted the country.

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1 reply
Mick Got rgkarasiewicz May 01 2014 at 4:25 PM

This was a $1,000,000 worth comment. True, yep.

Flag +1 rate up
xdelamar May 01 2014 at 9:32 PM

everyone should stay in their own country and mind t
heir own business.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
2 replies
Yelena, Hanna xdelamar May 01 2014 at 10:11 PM

you mean Putin?

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
larysa Yelena, Hanna May 02 2014 at 12:23 AM

Thanks Yelena!

Flag 0 rate up
Yelena, Hanna xdelamar May 01 2014 at 10:35 PM

I am glad you do.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
rgkarasiewicz May 01 2014 at 4:18 PM

The quicker the fascist American puppet regime in Kiev is ousted, the better for all.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
richyalf May 01 2014 at 4:17 PM

The UN seems as useless as the League of Nations.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
manfrombighorn richyalf May 01 2014 at 4:25 PM

That's why they should be governing the world.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
manfrombighorn manfrombighorn May 01 2014 at 4:26 PM

shouldn't be, my mistake

Flag 0 rate up
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