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Militia Backed by Ukraine Presidential Candidate Murders Pro-Russian in Torez

Militia Backed by Ukraine Presidential Candidate Murders Pro-Russian in Torez

Men who belong to a militia organized by presidential candidate Oleh Lyashko assassinated a pro-Russian and wounded another in Torez City Hall in Donetsk Oblast. Ukraine holds a presidential election Sunday, but this murder could be used as an excuse by Russian President Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine.

Christopher Miller at The Kyiv Post arrived at the scene before the bodies were removed. He reports:

The surprise attack by the Lyashko-backed militia came around 3 p.m., when five armed men stormed the Torez City Hall in Donetsk Oblast. The gunmen immediately headed towards an office on the first floor, where they opened fire on the two men. Both were active supporters of the Kremlin-backed, breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic.

Roman, 34, who celebrated a birthday on May 11, the day the People’s Republic held a referendum on secession from Ukraine, lay face down in a pool of blood in the office when the Kyiv Post arrived on the scene. A red, black and blue flag of the breakaway republic hung above his body on the wall. He lived and worked in the neighboring town of Shakhtarsk, acquaintances said. They declined to give his full name.

The other man, Alexander, was shot in the neck and abdomen and was rushed to the hospital. 

Lyashko, a member of parliament in the Radical Party, took to his Facebook and took responsibility for the attack.

“Soldiers from the Lyashko Battalion ‘Ukraine’ have cleared and liberated the city government building from the ‘Colorados’ in Torez, Donetsk Oblast,” Lyashko wrote, referring to the the pro-Russian separatists who have adopted the black-and-orange St. George’s ribbon, a symbol of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, as their own.

“Two terrorists were killed, while among our men were no injuries. Glory to Ukraine!” he added.

Miller posted a very graphic image of the murdered pro-Russian. Video was taken of five gunmen entering the building:

May 22 and May 23 have been some of the deadliest days since Russia-backed President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted on February 22. On Thursday, pro-Russian forces killed over thirteen Ukrainian soldiers in a surprise ambush at a checkpoint in Volnovakha. Then, on Friday, pro-Russians attacked members of the Ukraine Battalion and killed at least five men in Karlivka.

However, this attack could be significant for Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin promised he would not intervene in Ukraine but said he reserved the right to protect Russian speakers and ethnic Russians. The Russian parliament even passed a law that allows Moscow to intervene in another country if Russians there are not treated properly, as well as another law which eases the citizenship route to becoming Russian. Moscow intervened and annexed Crimea from Ukraine to protect the Russian speakers and ethnic Russians there. This murder might be the excuse Putin has been waiting for to move into Ukraine.

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