Rebels In Eastern Ukraine Capture Government Posts

LUHANSK, Ukraine -- Rebel fighters in Ukraine’s troubled east have scored a major victory, capturing a border guard command base here after besieging it for two days and then overwhelming a second base that housed Ukrainian internal security forces.

Gunfire rattled for hours into the night on Tuesday as fighters surrounded the internal security base in central Luhansk, on a back street near a grocery store.

By Wednesday morning, men in camouflage could be seen moving around inside the base, which goes by the number 3035, and blood was smeared in three large patches on a wall and sidewalk nearby.

It was not clear how many Ukrainian personnel had been inside, but they were ordered to remove their uniforms, which lay in a pile inside the base.

The Associated Press cited officials as saying six militants were killed and three Ukrainian servicemen were injured in the fighting.

In the southwestern suburb of Mirny, rebels carried boxes out of the large border guard station that they had finally overrun.

Local residents said the men inside had been released between 1 and 4 a.m. on Wednesday.

It was not clear what would become of the approximately 12 smaller outposts along Luhansk’s sprawling border with Russia that had been under the command center’s jurisdiction.

“It’s chaos,” said a massage therapist who lives in one of the nearby apartment buildings and identified herself only as Zhanna.

She pointed to empty boxes of ammunition in her building’s stairwell.

“These are bandits, plain and simple,” she said of the rebels.

She expressed pity for the border guards, whom she said were mostly young men from the area trying to feed their families.

The military reversals came as Oleksandr V. Turchynov, Ukraine’s acting president, arrived in eastern Ukraine — the first visit by a member of Ukraine’s government to the eastern regions since separatists seized government buildings and large stretches of territory.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Turchynov, Anna Vakhotskaya, said she could not give details about where he was or what he was doing, citing security concerns.

In Luhansk, mourners were occupied Wednesday with burying the victims of an airstrike two days earlier.

More than 100 stood in a crowded cemetery by the grave of Alexander Gizai, a respected community leader who was killed in the strike.

The death of Mr. Gizai, who ran a local youth club, has angered residents.

The A.P. reported on Wednesday that Mr. Turchynov, who will hand over power to President-elect Petro O. Poroshenko on Saturday, has asked the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine to consider imposing martial law in eastern parts of the country to try to stabilize the situation.

Ukraine’s first deputy prime minister, Vitaly Yarema, was quoted by the news agency Interfax Ukraine as saying that the council would convene to discuss martial law only after Mr. Poroshenko’s inauguration.

Source: The New York Times