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Pro-Russian insurgents retreat in Ukraine's east



MARIUPOL, Ukraine (AP) - Local patrols by steelworkers have forced pro-Russia insurgents to pull out of the government buildings they had seized in this city in eastern Ukraine, giving residents hope Friday that a wave of anarchy was over.

Mariupol is the second-largest city in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region - one of two regions that declared independence Monday from the central government in Kiev. Citizen patrols began here earlier this week as Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine's richest man, urged steelworkers at his factories to help police restore order.

In a report Friday, the United Nations raised concerns about increasing human rights abuses in eastern Ukraine as armed groups took advantage of the breakdown in law and order.

Akhmetov's company, Metinvest, agreed with steel plant directors, police and community leaders Thursday to help improve security in the city and get insurgents to vacate the buildings they had seized. A representative of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, which had declared independence, was also a party to the deal.

Metinvest has two steel plants Mariupol, a city of half a million people. The port and industrial center lies on the main road between Russia and Crimea, the peninsula annexed by Moscow in March. The city saw heavy fighting in the past weeks, including a shoot-out outside a police station that left one policeman and several insurgents dead. Without the city, Ukraine would lose a chunk of its coastline on the Sea of Azov, which links to the Black Sea.

The Associated Press journalists did not see any insurgents Friday morning in the city.

German Mandrakov, once the commander of Mariupol's occupied government building, told The Associated Press on Friday that his associates fled while he was "forced" to leave the building they had controlled for weeks.

"Everyone ran away," he said, using a vulgar Russian word for cowards. "Someone is trying to sow discord among us, someone has signed something, but we will continue our fight."

Several dozen Metinvest workers in overalls and helmets cleared out barricades of rubbish and tires outside the Mariupol government building Friday. Trucks carried it away and by midday, the barricades were nearly gone.

"(Locals are) tired of war and chaos. Burglaries and marauding have to stop," said Viktor Gusak, one of the Metinvest employees cleaning the street.

A few hundred meters (yards) away, three men sat in the park cooking soup. One of them, unemployed Serhiy Atroshchenko, told the AP they were all that was left of Mariupol's pro-Russian separatist force.

"We were duped," Atroshchenko said. "Akhmetov used to keep his eyes closed (to what was happening), but now he decided to make a deal with Kiev authorities."

Atroshchenko said other separatists fled and only he and his two friends -the "men of ideas," he claimed - were left "to fight till the end." None of them was armed.

While groups of armed men were seizing one town hall after another in eastern Ukraine, a region widely believed to be Akhmetov's turf, the billionaire industrialist kept mum, attracting angry comments across the country.

Among the graffiti aimed at Akhmetov in Kiev was this: "Want to make money? First, make some peace!"

On Wednesday, Akhmetov broke his silence to call for Donetsk to remain part of Ukraine, arguing that independence or absorption into Russia would be an economic catastrophe.

Since President Viktor Yanukovych's ouster in February, Ukraine's new leadership has reached out to oligarchs for help - appointing them as governors in eastern regions where loyalties to Moscow were strong.

Ihor Kolomoisky, a metals, banking and media tycoon who was appointed governor of his native region of Dnipropetrovsk, was among those praised for preserving order. Others like industrialist Serhiy Taruta, governor of the Donetsk region, seemed helpless as district after district fell into the insurgents' hands.

In Mariupol, the first major citizen patrol sponsored by Akhmetov's Metinvest was held Thursday, police spokeswoman Yulia Lafazan said, adding there were now 100 groups of men consisting of two policemen and six to eight steelworkers patrolling Mariupol.

Lafazan credited the patrols for a "drastic improvement" in the city's crime rate.

Burglaries and carjackings became the norm after the pro-Russia insurgents asserted themselves earlier this month, bringing in a wave of marauding, she said.

Associated Press journalists saw two steelworker patrols Friday afternoon. One consisted of two policemen and six workers patrolling a major avenue on foot; the other consisted of two policemen and three workers driving around town.

Steelworker Alexander Zhigula said the volunteered to help because "someone has to bring order back to the streets."

"The city is sick of crime and chaos," he said. "People can finally see that they've got someone to rely on."

Valentyna Tochilina, a 47-year-old resident, said she was relieved to see the insurgents disappear from the streets.

"For the first time (in weeks), I can go out shopping without fear," she said.

In other areas in eastern Ukraine, however, the pro-Russia insurgents were fortifying their territories.

Outside the strategic city of Slovyansk, an insurgent stronghold for more than a month now, armed separatists installed a new checkpoint on the eastern approaches to the city. That checkpoint blocks a major highway that links Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city - with the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don across the border.

Associated Press journalists saw several dozen heavily armed men fortifying the new checkpoint with concrete slabs, helped by residents.

In Kiev, Ukraine's acting President Oleksandr Turchynov on Friday urged residents of the eastern regions to stop helping the separatists and support the central government.

"You've got to support the anti-terrorist operation so that we could defeat terrorists and separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk regions together," he told the parliament. "The actions of the terrorists are threatening lives and welfare of the people."

Kiev on Wednesday launched the first round of European-brokered talks to solve the crisis, but it brought little visible results since the insurgents haven't been invited. The insurgents in their turn insisted that they will agree to the negotiations only if they focus on the withdrawal of the Ukrainian troops and the recognition of their independent state.

The next round of talks will be held in the eastern city of Kharkiv on Saturday, which has not seen major insurgent activity, the government announced late Friday.

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
Marco Borg May 16 2014 at 7:05 PM

THE UKRAINE CRISIS I

The " East Ukrainians" and their parents, and their granddads and the ones before them have always lived there. Nova Rossiya it was called. The name speaks for itself. So many of them want it to be in the same way as it used to be!

But other people got in the act. America is an oligarchic country. The masters or owners are called the1% . Their lackeys are called congressmen. Think of them as middle management in a large organization. The consiglieri are called lobbyists. The 1% transferred American industries to China making it Numero Uno. Then because they think that Americans are expensive , they started replacing them with Third World peoples.

They always think that a little chaos, little wars are good for business. Shares in the armaments industrial complex go sky high as do shares in oil, gas and fruckin' gas. Now Ukraine was ripe for a little chaos. And the Americans succeeded

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3 replies
rdot275 May 17 2014 at 2:46 AM

WOW .armed (poorly) and PO'd citizens defend their own neighborhoods and country where the governments own army was failing. The working class had to go to work, cleaning house. I hope that ours soon figures it out and stop towing the dem party line. They fought for their family and jobs while we figure out how to stay home because frying a hamburger is worth $15 a hour or nothing......

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thundt1775 May 17 2014 at 1:14 AM

Ukraine for Ukrainians! All who want to be a part of Russia can simply move there. I'm sure you wont be missed.

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1 reply
d.carns thundt1775 May 17 2014 at 2:51 AM

idiot

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Jim May 17 2014 at 7:28 AM

Everyone is an "anarchist" and an "insurgent" except for the firebomb throwing people that took power in Kiev by beating members of Parliament in their homes. As our President tells us, the Molotov cocktail throwing "patriots" in Kiev are now the "legitimate" government of Ukraine. Despite the fact that they have never received a single vote. And, as we all know, our President is a man of honesty and integrity.

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kintaro310 May 16 2014 at 5:31 PM

The insurgents are apparently a mixture of homeless and out of work Ukrainian residents mixed with armed Russian soldiers who imagine some kind of Russian utopia or atleast a better life for themselves, hardworking citizens of Ukraine do not want to give away their hard-earned country to Russia so that it can boost the Russian economy and ultimately destroy the nation of Ukraine. Russia nhas already stolen Crimea--Yes they stole it with a phony referendum preceeded by bullying and going door to door in Crimea and tearing up passports of any citizens who would vote for keeping Crimea as part of Ukraine. Crimea is worth billions of dollars in agriculture, wine production and tourism-- now in Crimea many supermarkets have little food on their shelves because as one resident in Simferopol described: "Hordes of Russians now come across the border and buy all the food in our supermarkets because it it priced much cheaper than the food they can buy in Russia, and so little food is left."

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2 replies
sandinbox kintaro310 May 16 2014 at 5:47 PM

kintaro310...didn't they vote to be part of russia or was it because the vote was under the gun?

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astronauty kintaro310 May 16 2014 at 11:52 PM

The whole world should support the Ukraine in trying to save their nation. In the end it is their fight. They must show they want to have a country.

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jcalla5373 May 16 2014 at 5:29 PM

America spent BILLIONS to overthrow another democratically elected government and stirred up a hornet's nest in the process and everyone here laps up the media's story. Baaaaa

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5 replies
Marco Borg May 16 2014 at 5:24 PM

1. The exports from this city are almost totally purchased by Russia.
2. The "terrorists" in Ukraine are the Fascists from West Ukraine and the non-Ukrainian oligarchs who together with the Fascists form the government and its "governors" in the East
3. Russia can take Eastern Ukraine any time, whatever the oligarchs say or do. The people there do not want to be governed by the Kiev Junta especially if they try to "legitimize" it by having a phoney election controlled by Fascists and observed by "independents" from NATO countries

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1 reply
sandinbox Marco Borg May 16 2014 at 5:52 PM

Marco Borg...you're an idiot. The only fascist is your Putin regime. I agree with you Russia can take eastern Ukraine anytime the oligarchs say so. Kiev government needs to figure out how to make sure that doesn't happen.

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Carl May 16 2014 at 5:20 PM

Hopefully all this backfires on Putin and assists the russian people in his removal.

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1 reply
Marco Borg Carl May 16 2014 at 7:34 PM

Dream on Carl!

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tdiplaci May 16 2014 at 5:19 PM

Iron workers are a pretty tough bunch and they sure would be a force to be reconned with if you piss them off. Our country needs to get its head out of its ass and back to being tough and intimidating. As of today we are a bunch of whimps that other countries laugh at.

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2 replies
uh34d tdiplaci May 16 2014 at 5:37 PM

What an absurd comment. Since the end of WW 2, nearly every president has been 'tough' and look where it's gotten us? Nowhere, nada, zilch, zero...except a lot of dead and maimed US servicemen and women at the cost of trillions of $$$'s to the taxpayer.

People such as yourself need to listen to or read Dwight Eisenhowers fareweel speech to America and his Cross of Iron speech. Those two speeches cover a lot of the ills we face in America today because we didn't heed his admonitions. In addition, you should read the diaries, letters, communications extant of the more prominent Founders of our Nation. The vast majority back then warned us of nearly all we see today in America that needs rectifying.

Regarding Ukraine; what do you suggest? US troops, our air and naval power? If so, I would hope you would be first in line ready to jump with your rucksack, ammo, weapon to back up your get tough talk? And that's all it is from you, cheap talk like most of it is from the right.

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1 reply
sandinbox uh34d May 16 2014 at 9:16 PM

uh34d...it's too late to talk about isolationism. We need to stay tough...Putin has been propagandizing against US since he got into office. Bush and Obama tried the friendship stuff that didn't work with an expansionist bully like Putin. You don't understand the bigger picture in this fight...do you think the US would be working so hard on this if a lot wasn't at stake for us? Why do you think NSA bugged Merkel's phone. We're trying to figure out who our allies are. This new world order has happened and when we act powerless we are at the mercy of every dictator out there especially Putin who wants to be king of the world. You need to read more deeply. Had we armed Kiev, had Nato and us put troops on Ukrainian border this wouldn't have gotten out of control. Putin has been testing us to see what he can get away with in terms of expansionism. He has been establishing allies that hate us...what do you think he's getting ready for?

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stevfrly tdiplaci May 16 2014 at 6:54 PM

I think frightened sociopaths is a better description of the US. Based on the kill rates, in Iraq, etc, and the creation of the largest Al-Qaeda franchise in the world located there, as direct result of bush league, and darth cheney. You know doubt are too tea bagger to understand any of this, however.

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lou stickles May 16 2014 at 5:41 PM

Independence comes from within the hearts of Patriots...not from outside. "Breathes there a Man so dead, who never to himself has said: ' this is my own, my native land' "

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