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24 Apr, 2009 14:44

Ukraine prepares for a terror attack

Ukraine's security service is facing legal action after being accused of using members of the public in an anti-terror exercise. People in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol were stopped for ID checks and held for hours.

Ekaterina Ezhova sells souvenirs at Sevastopol’s Riviera. On a warm spring day, she was on her way to her stall, when suddenly she was approached by two armed officers. They asked the bewildered woman to "come with them," for an ID check.

“We were taken to some building for a document check, and were held there for almost an hour. We were just walking down the street, doing nothing wrong. It is a disgrace, because we saw there were many people in that humid room, sitting there for many hours,” Ezhova said.

On the same day, Ukraine’s security service – the SBU – held an anti-terrorist exercise in a theatre, located in downtown Sevastopol. Armed troops staged a hostage siege, with men disguised as Islamic terrorists holding a small crowd at gunpoint.

After being accused of disturbing ordinary citizens, the SBU said that the anti-terrorist training had to be held in the streets. That is where such situations usually happen, the service said, so they had to do it this way in order to make it look real.

“These are planned exercises, they take place every year. They're held in a manner as close to reality as possible. Troops have to understand what to do in such situations,” the SBU spokesman stated.

But, according to Sevastopol’s city council, this time around, the SBU came up with a more creative approach.

“The scenario included the police searching among the crowd to find possible terrorist accomplices. In reality, they just grabbed ordinary people from the streets, took them to a small humid room, and didn’t let them use the toilet, or make any calls from their cell phones,” Sevastopol City Council member Konstantin Zarudnev said.

The Sevastopol city council has appealed to the General Prosecutor’s office to investigate why the SBU held such an exercise in the city.

Later on, it is planning a court action against the security service. Meanwhile, local residents have been left bewildered by the disruption of their quiet city life.