Things are getting pretty hairy over there:
Protesters seized another police station in eastern Ukraine Monday, as the government’s latest deadline for pro-Russian militia to leave the government offices they have occupied for the past week passed without signs of withdrawal or crackdown. In a televised Sunday address, acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchinov set a deadline of 9 a.m. for protesters to pull out. CNN reports that there was no sign of movement from occupied buildings in the regional capital, Donetsk, or the flashpoint city of Slovyansk. And at least 100 armed protesters stormed the police headquarters in Horlivka, a small city about 20 miles northeast of Donetsk, in a clash that apparently injured several people, Reuters reports.
Linda Kinstler recaps the developments over the weekend:
[A] Ukrainian Berkut officer was killed Sunday night after a shootout broke out in the eastern Ukrainian city of Sloviansk, in the already unstable Donetsk region. Five others were injured in the first reported gun fight in eastern Ukraine, which started after armed men seized the town’s state security office and police station, AP reports. Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov also reported “an unclear number of casualties among the militia.” …
Ukrainian Berkut police forces in Donetsk sided with pro-Russian protesters occupying government buildings in the city. “We will not submit to Kiev, because we do not think that anyone [in the government] is legitimate,” one officer said according to RIA Novosti. Police in Lugansk also said they are no longer taking orders from the Ukrainian government, Gazeta.ru reports.
Oleg Shynkarenko claims that Russians are being actively recruited to stir up trouble across the border:
One of the Kremlin’s key tactics is to obscure the origins of those forces spearheading its operation in east Ukraine, and one of the ways it’s doing that is to promote what might be called insurrectional tourism.
“Russian Spring,” as it turns out, is not only a revanchist motto out of Moscow, which we started hearing before the Crimea annexation, it’s a website, too. Adventure seekers who dream about reviving the U.S.S.R. can go online to share information about how to travel to Ukraine and, well, make a terrible mess there. Before their departure soldiers of fortune are advised to familiarize themselves with the slogan, “Leave for the front! Glory to Russia!” along with rules of behavior for a Russian tourist who wishes to get to “the territory of brotherly Ukraine”[.]
Jamie Dettmer suspects that Putin’s long game is to re-assert control over Ukraine without going to war:
“Putin’s objective remains to regain control of Ukraine, but I suspect he now thinks he can do this without ordering in the tanks,” says Andrei Illarionov, a former Putin economic policy advisor and now an unstinting critic of the Russian leader.
Illarionov tells The Daily Beast he expects Putin to maintain an intimidating offensive build-up of Russian forces along the Ukraine border, nonetheless, and that there will be no let-up in the fomenting of separatist agitation in the eastern Ukraine towns of Donetsk, Kharkiv, Lugansk and now Sloviansk. The aim is to destabilize Ukrainian politics, weaken Ukrainian state institutions and help Putin’s political allies reassert their power in Kiev.