Activists in eastern Ukraine in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions are blocking columns of heavy military equipment heading from Kiev to the border with Russia.
Late Thursday activists from the Donbass people's militia blocked the way of columns with about 20 trucks carrying heavy military equipment near Donetsk heading to the Russian border, a local activist and former officer of the Ukrainian Emergencies Ministry told RT.
“At about 5pm [1500 GMT], local activists called me,” said Sergey Rzhavsky. “They reported that a column [with military equipment] was situated near the town of Volovaha from the side of the Valeryanovka settlement. We, the Donbass People’s Self-Defense Units of Pavel Gubarev [the local governor, currently arrested in Kiev] promptly headed there. We saw about 20 heavy trucks there with some carrying airborne combat vehicles.”
According to Rzhavsky, the activists engaged in negotiations with
the troops that lasted about an hour or two. During the
negotiations, the activists found out that the trucks were
heading to a polygon situated near the border with Russia for
some military training, he said.
“Since we do not want fratricidal carnage, we suggested the military to refrain from using force. We were unmasked, without any means of self-defense. We asked them to turn around and leave, because the military equipment was really heavy and if the columns passed the city it would escalate tensions, [and evoke] shock and panic,” he said.
The activists and the troops, who called their superiors for guidance, came to a compromise, and the Kiev troops decided to turn around, Rzhavsky told RT.
“There were no conflicts. A lot of people gathered. They stopped and offered their help and moral support, they just wanted to express their views.”
Rzhavsky added that he knows of 58 airborne combat vehicles which are moving through the Donetsk and Lugansk regions and are heading for the eastern border.
Spontaneous protests erupted in Kharkov, Donetsk and Lugansk regions against the transportation of the military equipment toward the border with Russia. Residents of Lugansk also stopped a train, carrying heavy military equipment, which was headed for the border Thursday.
According to local residents the arrival of the train with airborne combat vehicles and tanks to the Lugansk railway station during twilight caused a stir among the people, Interfax reported. Locals from the nearby villages gathered at the spot and started to prevent the disembarkation of the equipment.
In response to questions about the purpose of the transportation, the Ukrainian troops said that they’ve arrived to Lugansk to fulfill a task which is only known to their commander, as cited by Interfax.
Having received no clear answer, the residents using a locomotive dragged part of the train to a standstill despite the troops’ protests, and barricaded the rails with scrap metal.
Most of the soldiers calmly reacted to the actions of local residents and did not initiate any conflict. Moreover, they stressed that they will not use any violence against civilians.
However, seven young people dressed in uniforms of the Ukrainian armed forces, but without shoulder straps, armed with Kalashnikov rifles with silencers, began to force the unit commander to “obey orders“ to disperse locals and dismantle the barricades.
Reportedly, a scuffle occurred as the unidentified men threatened the residents saying they "betrayed Ukraine." The troops’ commander who defended the civilians was injured in the fight.
Following the incident the residents set up a 24-hour patrol at the spot, guarding the military equipment preventing its further movement.
“Currently there is an escalation of different kind of
extremist organizations in our region” he said, adding,
“We don’t want the same developments as in Kiev.”
“All that is happening is a provocation of the extremist organizations that are attempting to undermine the situation in the region,” Rzhavsky said.
В Горловке, ЖД. Украинские войска едут к границе pic.twitter.com/oReppelZKE
— Новости Донбасса (@novostidnua) March 16, 2014
He added that the people in eastern Ukraine are not against the country’s army, but they are calling for the politicians to sit down at the negotiating table.
“We don’t want a fratricidal war,” Rzhavsky said, adding that many in eastern Ukraine support the currently ongoing Crimea referendum on either becoming an integral part of Russia or staying within Ukraine under the conditions of broad autonomy.