Ukrainian forces approach rebel-held stronghold as residents build barricades
Friday, May 02, 2014 - 02:00
May 2 - Ukrainian troops land in the eastern village of Andriivka in one of the central government's most concerted military operations yet to wrest back control of the restive east. Mana Rabiee reports.
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Ukrainian troops land in the eastern village of Andriivka.
They're here to take back the nearby rebel-held city of Slaviansk.
It's part of the central government's operation to disarm pro-Russian separatists in the east.
And this is one of its most concerted military operations yet.
But at the village, they're confronted by angry residents, urging them not to advance.
"Facsists," some of them shout at the soldiers.
These are the rebels the military wants to disarm.
They've taken up positions in Slaviansk and demand a referendum on independence.
(SOUNDBITE) (Russian) MASKED SLAVIANSK SEPARATIST, NO NAME GIVEN, SAYING:
"I will fight with whatever I have, if not a rifle, then I'll fight with my hands and strangle these bastards so that they won't, mess on my land, fuck, so there will be no Nazis on this land."
It's not just the armed rebels who are in the streets.
Ordinary citizens are chipping in.
Trees come down to become barricades.
(SOUNDBITE) (Russian) SLAVIANSK RESIDENT, ANATOLY KHMELEVOY, SAYING:
"In case they break through our roadblocks on the outskirts of the city."
(SOUNDBITE) (Russian) SLAVIANSK RESIDENT, LINA, SAYING:
"We are defending our city so that bloody provocateurs won't get through."
The city's de-facto separatist mayor released a video telling residents their city is under attack.
(SOUNDBITE) (Russian) VYACHESLAV PONOMARYOV, SAYING:
"I'd ask the children, women and pensioners to leave their homes, men who have arms, to assist in any possible way."
Ukraine's defense forces say they arrested four men suspected of attacking one of their helicopters during Friday's operation.
Russia called Ukraine's actions "criminal" and said an international peace plan agreed to last month between Kiev and Moscow is now void.
The dramatic language raises the stakes.
Russia has massed tens of thousands of troops along its border with Ukraine and says it has the right to invade to protest its interests here.
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