3 Killed Durin Black Sea Base Attack 04/17 06:10
Three pro-Russian protesters were killed and 13 injured during an attempted
overnight raid on a Ukrainian National Guard base in the Black Sea port of
Mariupol, Ukraine's authorities said.
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -- Three pro-Russian protesters were killed and 13
injured during an attempted overnight raid on a Ukrainian National Guard base
in the Black Sea port of Mariupol, Ukraine's authorities said.
The Interior Ministry said a mob of around 300 people armed with stun
grenades and firebombs were involved in the bloodiest episode to date in the
confrontation pitting Ukraine's new government in Kiev against an eastern
insurgency tacitly supported by Moscow.
Masked and battle-ready militia bearing sophisticated firearms have been
deeply involved in seizing government offices in eastern Ukraine, igniting
suspicions that much of the unrest is being stirred with Russia's backing.
But Russia's President Vladimir Putin on Thursday dismissed as "nonsense"
claims that Russian special forces were fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine.
"It's all nonsense, there are no special units, special forces or
instructors there," Putin said.
He did admit --- for the first time --- that the troops in unmarked uniforms
who had captured Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula before its annexation last month
by Moscow were Russian soldiers.
Putin also expressed hope that four-way talks between Ukraine, the U.S., the
European Union and Russia in Geneva on Thursday could map a way out of the
deepening security crisis.
Ukraine's interior ministry said shots fired by servicemen in the Mariupol
base initially proved insufficient to deter the pro-Russian crowd from
proceeding with their assault. It remains unclear exactly how the three
protesters were killed.
There were no casualties among Ukrainian servicemen, the ministry said. At
least 63 people involved in the attack were detained, but local media Thursday
morning cited police as saying 38 were later released.
Speaking in parliament, acting President Oleksandr Turchynov said a
pro-Russian gang carrying automatic weapons attempted to storm the base three
APTN footage filmed outside the base on Wednesday night showed an
unidentified man acting as an intermediary coming out to speak to masked men in
the crowd armed with assault rifles. He told them the military had asked for 10
minutes to think over an unspecified ultimatum.
The masked men insisted they wanted no bloodshed. A short while later,
however, a crowd of mainly masked young men armed with bats and sticks began
throwing Molotov cocktails at the base's gate and at the trucks parked in front
of it. Sounds of gunfire were heard in response.
The skirmish came after the government announced an operation to retake
control of the eastern city of Slovyansk, which has emerged as the focal point
of the armed insurgency, and government buildings in several other cities in
With tens of thousands of Russian troops deployed just across the border
from Ukraine, there are fears the Kremlin might use the instability in the
predominantly Russian-speaking region as a pretext for seizing more territory
beyond its annexation of Crimea last month.
On Wednesday, hundreds of people in Kramatorsk, 15 kilometers (9 miles)
south of Slovyansk, encircled a column of Ukrainian armored vehicles carrying
several dozen troops. Soon after, masked gunmen in combat gear reached the site
and Ukrainian soldiers surrendered the vehicles to them.
At another location near Kramatorsk, troops at 15 Ukrainian armored vehicles
were also surrounded by a crowd. To end the standoff, Ukrainian servicemen
handed over the magazines from their assault rifles to pro-Russian militia. The
Defense Ministry said the infantry vehicles had left the area Thursday and were
returning to their base in Dnipropetrovsk, 225 kilometers (140 miles) away.
There appeared little immediate sign of any planned military action by
Ukraine forces. In an attempt to contain pro-Russian insurgents, a military
checkpoint made of sandbags was built on the northern road to Slovyansk. An
Associated Press reporter spotted 30 special forces officers, an armored
personnel carrier and military vehicle with an anti-aircraft gun at the site.
Turchynov told parliament on Thursday that the brigade that handed over its
vehicles would be disbanded and its members put on trial.
As the new government in Kiev struggles to contain the pro-Russian uprising,
the Obama administration has said it is readying additional sanctions against
Moscow and a boost in aid for the Ukrainian military in the coming days.