Pro-Russian Militants Occupy Police Stations in Eastern Ukraine

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
April 12 2014 12:58 PM

Pro-Russian Militants Occupy Police Stations in Eastern Ukraine

A masked Pro-Russia supporter stands guard outside the headquarters of Ukraine's security agency building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Lugansk on Saturday

Photo by DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP/Getty Images

Armed pro-Russian militants occupied police headquarters in three key eastern Ukrainian cities on Saturday, marking an escalation of the deadlock that has emerged in the region close to the Russian border as protesters have barricaded themselves inside government buildings in several cities. In the Donetsk, men wearing uniforms of the recently disbanded Ukrainian riot police stormed the police headquarters, reports the Associated Press. That came shortly after gunmen seized police headquarters in Slovyansk, which is around 55 miles away. The police station in the nearby town of Krasnyi Lyman was also occupied, according to Bloomberg.

In Slovyansk, officials say the gunmen seized lots of weapons from the building before replacing the Ukrainian flag with Russia’s flag. The men inside allegedly demanded a referendum on separating from Ukraine and possibly joining Russia, a request that has been repeatedly made in eastern Ukraine since last month’s Crimea referendum. “The swiftness and scope of today's attacks … suggest that the operation was planned well in advance and had support from within the ranks of Ukraine's government, including its law enforcement agencies,” writes Mark Rachkevych in the Kyiv Post.


No one can say with any certainty who the gunmen are but reporters on the ground say those who carried out the takeovers appeared to be a mixture of locals and out-of-towners. At the very least it seems some local residents helped the militants build barricades, reports Reuters. But the BBC hears word from a local journalist that there were some people who appeared to be new to the area because they didn’t even know the name of the mayor. The BBC’s David Stern writes that the militants in Donetsk claim they are working alongside the group in Slovyansk, giving a pretty clear indication the takeovers were meticulously planned and executed.

Russia has vehemently denied Kiev’s accusations that it is behind the unrest. The Russian Foreign Ministry published a statement Saturday saying there was no evidence to link Moscow to the situation in eastern Ukraine, reports the Voice of Russia. At the same time, the ministry urged the Ukrainian authorities to avoid violence. Reuters points out that the occupations could prove to be a “flashpoint” because if Ukraine hurts or kills any militants, the Kremlin could make good on its threat to intervene in order to aid the local Russian-speaking population.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.


Justice Ginsburg’s Crucial Dissent in the Texas Voter ID Case

The Jarring Experience of Watching White Americans Speak Frankly About Race

How Facebook’s New Feature Could Come in Handy During a Disaster

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

View From Chicago

You Should Be Able to Sell Your Kidney

Or at least trade it for something.

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Terrorism, Immigration, and Ebola Are Combining Into a Supercluster of Anxiety

The Legal Loophole That Allows Microsoft to Seize Assets and Shut Down Companies

  News & Politics
Oct. 19 2014 1:05 PM Dawn Patrol Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s critically important 5 a.m. wake-up call on voting rights.
Business Insider
Oct. 19 2014 11:40 AM Pot-Infused Halloween Candy Is a Worry in Colorado
Oct. 17 2014 5:26 PM Judge Begrudgingly Strikes Down Wyoming’s Gay Marriage Ban
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 17 2014 4:23 PM A Former FBI Agent On Why It’s So Hard to Prosecute Gamergate Trolls
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Oct. 17 2014 1:33 PM What Happened at Slate This Week?  Senior editor David Haglund shares what intrigued him at the magazine. 
Oct. 19 2014 4:33 PM Building Family Relationships in and out of Juvenile Detention Centers
Future Tense
Oct. 17 2014 6:05 PM There Is No Better Use For Drones Than Star Wars Reenactments
  Health & Science
Space: The Next Generation
Oct. 19 2014 11:45 PM An All-Female Mission to Mars As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.
Sports Nut
Oct. 16 2014 2:03 PM Oh What a Relief It Is How the rise of the bullpen has changed baseball.