Ukraine announced Thursday that a Russian military attaché to Kiev had been detained by authorities and given 24 hours to leave the country. The Russian official’s name has not yet been released nor are his immediate whereabouts public. He is accused of conducting and or coordinating unspecified “intelligence activities.”
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry in Kiev refused to identify the expelled Russian by name or specific title, only to offer that he was a naval attaché, ordered expelled from the country for performing “activities not consistent with his consular position.” No details were provided as to how, when or precisely where he was apprehended, nor any indication as where he was being detained.
The announcement comes as pro-Russian militants, with the assistance and support of Russian special forces both in and outside Ukraine, intensify their hold on key government installations in a growing number of town and cities across eastern Ukraine. The latest seizures occurred Wednesday in Horlivka when camouflaged militants carrying Russian issued military assault weapons seized control of that town’s city council building and a second police station. They have been holding another police station in Horlivka for several weeks.
In the separatist stronghold of Sloviansk, the separatists recently seized, without opposition, the regional security services building. They already control the city council building, police headquarters and numerous other strategic locations and facilities in the city. Militants in that city continue to hold hostage the 8 OSCE observers kidnapped by the Russian backed militants.
Ukrainian authorities have so far proven utterly powerless to stop them. Kiev’s few coordinated attempts to re-establish local control have been easily been rebuffed, making the government appear feckless and incompetent to many, if not most people in the east.
By now, the pattern is well known and well practiced. Pro-Russian militants have taken up positions in public and well known buildings, seized armories and weapons and deposed the lawful authorities in more than a dozen towns and cities across eastern and southern Ukraine.
Their success was all but acknowledged by none other than Ukraine’s acting president Oleksander Turchenov on Wednesday. He told a meeting of regional governors in Ukraine that “the hard to accept fact is that the majority of our law enforcement forces in the east are incapable of performing their duties.”
As Russian militants have seized and solidified control of strategic facilities in eastern cities, Ukrainian authorities, especially local law enforcement appear largely to have disappeared. Police claim they have been disarmed by Kiev authorities concerned their weapons would be seized by the Russian special forces divisions masquarading as pro-Russian locals, and that in addition to not having been paid in months, they have received no orders upon which to act.
Whether Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ultimate objective is to formally annex eastern and southern parts of Ukraine to Russia or simply to dismember his western neighbour, few would deny the former would take only a declaration while the latter is already achieved. Putin’s prepositioning of up to 40,000 well trained and heavily armed Russian troops on his country’s western border has so far been more than sufficient to cow any thoughts Kiev might have of attempting a more forceful reassertion of state control over its eastern regions.
Ukrainian Interior Ministry officials warned of still more provocations and clashes from Moscow-lead separatists in eastern Ukraine to coincide with and take advantage of today’s May Day parades.