Member of Kiev's top brass ‘defects’ to anti-govt forces, predicts more like him

Aleksandr Kolomiyets, claiming to be a major general of the Ukrainian army, speaking at a news conference at the Donetsk news agency. (RIA Novosti/Igor Maslov)
A man claiming to be a Ukrainian major general and former assistant to the country's defense minister has announced he is now working with the forces of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic.

"I am Ukrainian Armed Forces Major General Aleksandr Kolomiyets. My latest posts are chief analyst of the Ukrainian armed forces, assistant to the Ukrainian defense minister," the man said at a news conference at the Donetsk news agency loyal to the self-proclaimed republic. Kolomiyets had also spent 19 years as the chief enlistment officer in the Donetsk region.

"I am going to work for the good of the Donetsk People's Republic," Kolomiyets (not to be confused with oligarch Igor Kolomoysky)announced.

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The defector says he took his family out of the Ukrainian capital, fearing repercussions from officials.

He also claims a lot of people in the Ukrainian military want to switch to the self-proclaimed republics' side, including officers. According to Kolomiyets, hundreds have already abandoned Kiev.

"Look at who is actually fighting. Only the volunteers from nationalist squads," the defector said at the news conference.

There is growing dissatisfaction with the commanders, Kolomiyets said. "Soon, there is going to be unrest within the military. They do not understand the orders they are given, to kill civilians. We are going to see that by autumn, everything will change."

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He added that morale is very low in the Ukrainian army: "All the officers, the generals that understand the criminal nature of the authorities' actions, do not want to fight."

Meanwhile, the press secretary of Ukraine's General Staff has told Ukrainskaya Pravda newspaper that Kolomiyets was fired from the army in 2012 due to incompetence. "He could not handle the post of the army's top analyst," the newspaper quoted the press secretary as saying. "Besides, he traveled to Russia as a private [individual]. Military men are supposed to inform their commanders about such visits, but he broke the rules."

Kolomiyets, if it is him, is not the first Ukrainian official to have switched sides in the conflict that has been tearing the country apart for over a year now. Previous defections include the head of the Lugansk customs office, an officer of the Ukrainian foreign intelligence office and a member of staff of the Ukrainian embassy in France.