A Ukrainian general leading the operation against protesters in the east of the country has warned that activists who refuse to lay down their arms will be “destroyed.”
“They must be warned that if they do not lay down their arms, they will be destroyed,” General Vasily Krutov, first deputy head of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) told reporters, as cited by AFP.
Krutov, recently appointed chief of the SBU’s Anti-Terrorist Center, added that activists were being supported by hundreds of soldiers from the Russian army's Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU).
The Kremlin said the allegations about Russia’s military presence in eastern Ukraine are “absurd.”
"These are absurd statements. There are no Russian troops there. The president and the foreign minister have spoken about it,” said Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov on Tuesday.
"We can only be startled by the fact that all these statements made by the Russian side are deliberately chosen not to be heard (by the West)," he added.
Kiev authorities launched a military operation against anti-government protesters in the East of the former Soviet republic.
The military operation is a “huge mistake” committed by
the interim government in Kiev, a political commentator from
London, Aleksandr Nekrassov, believes. He argues that
negotiations between authorities and Kiev and leaders of the
protest movement in the east of Ukraine are the only way to
prevent the crisis from escalating into a civil war.
“Unfortunately the people in Kiev at the moment are listening to the advice given to them by CIA agents and people from the EU, they are not listening to reason,” Nekrassov told RT. “They have been very vocal in blaming president Yanukovich for ordering his police to clash with demonstrators and claiming that he ordered to shoot people. Well, now, they’re on the receiving end. Now they are doing things they were accusing Yanukovich of. They should realize they will be held responsible.”
According to activists, four people were killed and two others injured on Tuesday as troops seized an airfield in the city of Kramatorsk, which had earlier been controlled by protesters.
A source at Ukraine’s Defense Ministry told Interfax that there were no victims among the military as a result of the operation.
Acting President Aleksandr Turchinov confirmed that Ukrainian special forces regained control over the facility.
On Tuesday evening, Krutov, who personally supervised the operation in Kramatorsk, appeared before local residents gathered on the airfield. According to RIA Novosti, the SBU official attempted to explain to them that the military had arrived at the site to protect them from “terrorists.” However, the crowd responded shouting they were “peaceful citizens.” The activists then pushed Krutov several times, but were stopped by special forces troops who fired warning shots into the air.
Conflicting reports say that Ukrainian military – supported by armored vehicles and helicopters – have also entered the city of Slavyansk.
Earlier on Tuesday, Roman Sokolenko, from the People's Militia of Donbass, told RT that transport was not being allowed out of the eastern city while “tanks were approaching.” He said protesters were manning barricades in preparation for the possible storm. Activists were in good spirits and “ready to protect their land.”
As of early Wednesday morning, federalization supporters in Ukraine’s eastern city of Kramatorsk were still blocking the exit from the airport, RIA Novosti reported. Activists built barricades out of tires and are burning them by the airport gates. Meanwhile, the eastern town of Slavyansk remains under the control of federalization supporters.