Ukraine orders police deployment to the east

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KIEV, Ukraine — As spo­radic fire­fights con­tin­ued be­tween Ukrain­ian troops and sep­a­rat­ists, the gov­ern­ment an­nounced Mon­day that it was de­ploy­ing po­lice of­fi­cers to the east and would fire those who refuse to go.

In­te­rior Min­is­ter Arsen Avakov said in a state­ment that he was or­der­ing in the po­lice out of ne­ces­sity and as “a test of pro­fi­ciency, spirit and pa­tri­o­tism.” He said their will­ing­ness to serve in the east will help in­still trust in the in­sti­tu­tion, long seen as cor­rupt. Mr. Avakov said he had fired 21 po­lice of­fi­cers from the city of Cherni­hiv on Sun­day be­cause they re­fused to go, while 86 obeyed the di­rec­tive.

Mr. Avakov did not in­di­cate whether the of­fi­cers would be sent to the front lines in the self-pro­claimed “peo­ple’s re­pub­lics” con­trolled by pro-Rus­sian sep­a­rat­ists. But he said that if or­dered into com­bat, the of­fi­cers would be pro­vided with ap­pro­pri­ate am­mu­ni­tion and body ar­mor.

De­ploy­ing po­lice from across Ukraine to the east will but­tress reg­u­lar army units, which have of­ten strug­gled to re­pel rebel ad­vances. Ukraine’s mil­i­tary has been weak­ened in re­cent years, starved of cash and train­ing un­der the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment. In part, that was a by­prod­uct of the now-dis­cred­ited be­lief that the coun­try faced no im­mi­nent mil­i­tary threat.

The po­lice, who re­port to the In­te­rior Min­is­try, could be more sup­port­ive of the gov­ern­ment in Kiev than at least some of the po­lice of­fi­cers serv­ing in the east. The Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Se­cu­rity and Co­op­er­a­tion in Europe, or OSCE, has said that in Lu­hansk, for ex­am­ple, the po­lice force is split over whether to co­op­er­ate with the sep­a­rat­ists.

The re­in­force­ments will ar­rive at a time when law­less­ness in the east­ern re­gions ap­pears to be in­creas­ing. They have been be­set by crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity, with lo­cal au­thor­i­ties re­luc­tant to in­ter­vene. But it is dif­fi­cult to know whether sep­a­rat­ist fight­ers are to blame for the law­less­ness, or whether some of it is a symp­tom of the gen­eral un­rest.

Last week, an ar­mored bank ve­hi­cle car­ry­ing cash was robbed at gun­point by men in cam­ou­flage near Donetsk. There was a re­port Mon­day of 20 armed men at­tempt­ing to break into a fac­tory in Donetsk that makes ra­dio and elec­tronic equip­ment for mil­i­tary use. A law­yer and a news­pa­per ed­i­tor in the Lu­hansk re­gion were kid­napped Sun­day.

Mean­while, OSCE mon­i­tors said guards in state pris­ons in the east have been aban­don­ing their posts, leav­ing un­cer­tain the fate of 23,000 in­mates — some of whom are thought to be in­fected with tu­ber­cu­lo­sis.

None­the­less, Donetsk and Lu­hansk were calm Mon­day, and their mar­kets teemed with shop­pers.

In Slovy­ansk, how­ever, gov­ern­ment troops and sep­a­rat­ists ex­changed fire at two check­points, said mil­i­tary spokes­man Vla­dislav Seleznev. Troops were fired on with mor­tars and au­to­matic weap­ons, he said, and shots were aimed at a mil­i­tary con­voy and at ci­vil­ian cars. A pat­tern has de­vel­oped, Mr. Seleznev said, of sep­a­rat­ists am­bush­ing gov­ern­ment troops and then flee­ing “into the swamps and for­ests.” He said reb­els are clearly mon­i­tor­ing troop move­ments.

Mr. Seleznev also said the army is try­ing to ne­go­ti­ate the re­lease of six cap­tured Ukrain­ian sol­diers who were pa­raded be­fore re­port­ers Sun­day in Slovy­ansk. A video of the news con­fer­ence showed the sol­diers in­tro­duced by a man who iden­ti­fied him­self as a for­mer of­fi­cer in the Ukrain­ian army, who is now a dep­uty com­mander in the “Donetsk People’s Re­pub­lic” army. The sol­diers looked sul­len and sub­dued as they sat at a ta­ble with their hands clasped in front of them. They said they were be­ing held in cells but were be­ing treated hu­manely. Asked to ad­dress their gov­ern­ment, one sol­dier said, “We don’t want to be at war.”

The sep­a­rat­ists have re­buffed the cease-fire pro­posed by Ukraine’s new pres­i­dent, Petro Porosh­enko, in his in­au­gu­ral speech Satur­day. At a meet­ing Sun­day with an OSCE of­fi­cial and Rus­sian Am­bas­sa­dor Mi­k­hail Zurabov, Mr. Porosh­enko sug­gested that a truce should be put into ef­fect quickly. “We must cease fire this week,” he said. “Each day when peo­ple die, when Ukraine pays such a high price, is in­ad­mis­sible for me.”

But OSCE mon­i­tors of­fered a dour as­sess­ment, not­ing that Donetsk People’s Re­pub­lic of­fi­cials see a pris­oner ex­change, with­drawal of gov­ern­ment troops and po­lit­i­cal rec­og­ni­tion as the only items worth dis­cuss­ing.

United States military - United States government - Eastern Europe - Europe - Ukraine - Donetsk - Petro Poroshenko


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