Ukraine accuses mayor of treason
Ukrainian authorities have cited the acceptance of humanitarian aid from Russia as one of the grounds to charge the mayor of a town in Kharkov Region with treason on Friday. Ivan Stolbovoy, the mayor of Balakleya, is accused of urging the city council to cooperate with Russian troops and announcing that they would be distributing food.
The office of the prosecutor general of Ukraine charged Stolbovoy, alleging that he “chose to side with the enemy” when the Russian military took control of Balakleya on March 28. He agreed to continue as mayor under the “occupation regime” and accepted humanitarian aid from Russian troops, the prosecutors said.
At a town council meeting that day, the mayor championed “loyalty to both the occupation troops and the Russian Federation in general,” the prosecutor said. Later he “convened a meeting of local citizens and told them the Russian military would be distributing humanitarian aid and also that negotiations were underway with the occupiers” to re-establish public utilities in the city.
Balakleya is a town of some 25,000 residents in the Izyum county, about 90km southeast of Kharkov. It came under the control of Russian troops in late March.
During the recent fighting near the town, Russian troops reportedly captured the 65th Arsenal of the Ukrainian military – the largest ammunition depot in all of Ukraine, designed to store at least 150,000 tons of supplies. Much of it was left behind intact, several Russian media correspondents reported on Friday.
Russia attacked its neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.