A Ukrainian officer talks with a pro Russian activist in their camp near the armory Ukrainian army where they stand to prevent the export of arms and ammunition in the village of Poraskoveyevka, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, March 20, 2014. The disheveled men barricading the muddy lane leading into a military base in this eastern Ukraine village say they’re taking a stand to defend Russian-speakers. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
ARTEMIVSK, Ukraine (AP) — The disheveled men barricading the muddy lane leading into a military facility in this eastern Ukraine town say they are making a stand to defend the region’s Russian-speaking majority.
In the nearby city of Donetsk, gangs of pro-Russian activists and Cossacks armed with sticks and bats have been storming one local government office after another, only to leave a short while later.
It looks a lot like Crimea.
But despite feeling or speaking Russian, many in these eastern regions still adhere strongly to their Ukrainian identity, so things could play out far differently.
“Russia has been unable to achieve the rapid breakaway of eastern Ukraine and we are focused on a long-term scenario,” said Andrei Purgin, whose banned Donetsk Republic separatist group has been engaged in the seizure of public administration buildings.
Rumblings in the east began soon after last month’s ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych, whose political strongholds lay mainly in the nation’s Russian-speaking Donbass industrial heartland.
The protests that brought about his downfall and paralyzed the capital, Kiev, were perceived by many here as ardent Ukrainian nationalism.
In truth, the monthslong protests on Kiev’s Independence Square were focused on a desire to fight corruption and strengthen ties with Europe. But when the new parliament that took center stage after Yanukovych’s overthrow Login to read more