ABC.Australia — April 16, 2014
Armoured personnel carriers driven into the eastern Ukrainian city of Slaviansk under the control of Ukrainian armed forces are now believed to be in the control of pro-Russian separatists after Ukrainian soldiers surrendered their vehicles.
A soldier guarding one of six troop carriers now under the control of pro-Russian separatists told journalists he was a member of Ukraine’s 25th paratrooper division from Dnipropetrovsk.
“All the soldiers and the officers are here. We are all boys who won’t shoot our own people,” said the soldier, whose uniform did not have any identifying markings on it.
“They haven’t fed us for three days on our base. They’re feeding us here. Who do you think we are going to fight for?” he said.
Armoured personnel carriers marked with the numbers 815, 842 and 847 were among six under Ukrainian control in the centre of Kramatorsk early on Wednesday. They were later seen under the control of pro-Russian separatists in the centre of Slaviansk.
Some Kramatorsk locals gave tea and food to the Ukrainian soldiers, who appeared dirty and tired and said they had been on “exercises” for four days.
A civilian in Kramatorsk who identified himself as Felix said he had seen Ukrainian forces give up their vehicles to armed pro-Russian separatists.
A YouTube video showing vehicles with the same markings appeared to show Ukrainian troops peacefully abandoning their vehicles to heavily armed pro-Russian separatists.
A spokesman for the pro-Russian separatists in Slaviansk said the Ukrainians had given up after talks. It was not clear whether there was any threat of force.
Ukraine’s defence minister, Myhailo Koval, was travelling to the Donetsk region to establish what was happening, deputy prime minister Vitaly Yarema told journalists in Kiev.
“At the start there was information that the armoured personnel carriers entered the town within the framework of the counter-terrorist operation, but their subsequent fate… ” Mr Yarema said without finishing his sentence.
Meanwhile, NATO said it had decided on a series of immediate steps to reinforce its forces in eastern Europe because of the Ukraine crisis.
“You will see deployments at sea, in the air, on land to take place immediately, that means within days,” NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.
NATO fighter aircraft will fly more sorties over the Baltic region, allied ships will deploy to the Baltic sea, the eastern Mediterranean and elsewhere, and allied military staff will be sent out to improve NATO’s preparedness, training and exercises.