Kiev authorities say “the second stage” of the military operation in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk has been launched, which will “completely isolate” the anti-government stronghold. Self-defense forces are preparing for an assault.
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Ukrainian troops were ordered to commence the next stage of the so-called ‘anti-terrorist operation’ around 12pm local time (10:00 GMT), according to coup-appointed acting head of presidential administration Sergey Pashinsky.
“The aim is to completely isolate Slavyansk to localize the problem. At the moment, the operation is ongoing,” the official told media as quoted by RIA Novosti.
Ukrainian armed forces have set up a military base some 20 kilometers from Slavayansk, RT’s stringer, Ukraine-based British journalist Graham Phillips reports. According to Phillips, there is an ongoing buildup of troops in the area and “snipers hiding in forests in position.” The city is being encircled, he tweets.
The military do not intend to storm Slavyansk, fearing civilian casualties, the Ukrainian Security Service has claimed.
“We will not go the length of [civilian] casualties, to storm the city. We understand that this may lead to many people coming to harm,” General Vasily Krutov, first deputy head of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), was quoted as saying by Interfax.
Pashinsky meanwhile repeated earlier Kiev’s claims that “terrorists have placed their key strong points in kindergartens and hospitals,” branding the situation in Slavyansk as “classic terrorism.” The claims have been dismissed by Slavyansk activists as “ridiculous.”
Despite the promises of no storming of the city planned, Slavyansk self-defense activists have braced for an assault, which they fear may soon start under the guise of the city’s “blockade.”
Self-defense activists cited by ITAR-TASS have claimed that a convoy of military armored vehicles and troops bearing “no insignia” was spotted moving in the direction of Slavyansk and then “disappeared in the woods” surrounding the city.