Federalization proponents push for referendum on Donetsk region status - report
About 60 Ukrainian servicemen from the crews of armored combat vehicles sent to the town of Kramatorsk as part of a military operation to quell federalization protests in eastern Ukraine on Wednesday sided with protesters. The servicemen took down Ukrainian flags and headed to nearby Slavyansk.
"We have seen that they [protesters] are not separatists or terrorists, but ordinary local residents. We will not fight against them," one of the servicemen who changed sides, all of them from Dnepropetrovsk, told a RIA Novosti correspondent.
By now, the crews of six airborne assault vehicles, several armored infantry vehicles and one armored personnel carrier have taken the protesters’ side. Part of them raised Russian flags and flags of the Russian Airborne Assault Forces. Several armored vehicles deployed around the state administration building in Slavyansk, which has been controlled by federalization supporters for several successive days.
A column of armored vehicles has entered the town of Slavyansk, and servicemen are considering siding with the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, acting Slavyansk mayor Vyacheslav Ponomaryov told
Facing Slavyansk's Town Hall are four armored vehicles, a self-propelled gun and a communications vehicles sent by the Kiev-based command to the Donetsk region.
"We've let them through. The only condition is that the servicemen unclip their magazines through they retain the ammunition load. Our activists are bringing dinner shortly: we'll offer them a meal and then let them decide if they remain on our side or leave," Ponomaryov said.
The military has a choice: join the Donbass self-defense units or leave their weapons and military equipment and withdraw, he added.
Earlier, fighters of 25th airborne troops brigade sided with the self-defense activists. However, a considerable amount of armored vehicles belonging to Kiev-controlled military units is still amassed near Slavyansk.
The "Anti-Maidan" in Odessa has announced the region the People's Republic of Odessa and urged residents to block traffic in the city. "From today, the Odessa region becomes the People's Republic of Odessa, where the power belongs to the people living in its territory," a statement on the official website of the "Anti-Maidan" reads.
Activists urged city residents to block traffic in Odessa, having pointed 153 places on a special map on Yandex, where people should block traffic. It is planned to block the traffic for all kinds of transport, except ambulances.
"At 16:00 tomorrow, Odessa must get blocked! Literally," the appeal reads. "Everybody who has not yet realized that the war had come to our houses should not go to work tomorrow," the activists of the "Anti-Maidan" said.
The personnel of six armored transport vehicles sent to the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk has switched sides and has joined the pro-federalist activists, witnesses told RIA Novosti on Wednesday. "We found them at a square near the railway station. A group of women surrounded them, we started telling them we were peaceful residents who are just fighting for their rights and that there are no terrorists here," the witness said, adding: "They won't shoot us."
"The main armored transport vehicle had a Russian flag on it and they left together with our insurgents towards Slaviansk," the witness said.
The number of personnel from the transport vehicles was not specified.
The strongest confrontation between the protesters and security forces took place in two cities in the North of the Donetsk region: in Slavyansk on Saturday and in Kramatorsk on Tuesday. According to various data, several people were killed in each case. The head of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Sergei Lavrov, called the decision of the new Ukrainian authorities to use force, including the army, against the protesters are supporters of federalization an extremely dangerous development of events.
February 22, a change of government with signs of a coup took place in Ukraine. The Verkhovna Rada dismissed the country's President Viktor Yanukovych from power, changed the Constitution and appointed presidential elections for May 25. Moscow believes that the legitimacy of the Rada’s decisions is doubtful, and the legitimacy of the elections will depend on a number of conditions, including transparency and taking into account the interests of the regions.