[Ed. – Anyone think Putin won’t move now?]
Ukraine is on the verge of major armed conflict as government forces launch their first significant military action in the east of the country, where they have clashed with about 30 armed pro-Russian gunmen at a provincial airfield.
Shots were fired in Kramatorsk airport as Ukrainian special forces stormed in to reassert Kiev’s control. As troop helicopters hovered above and tempers flared, a Ukrainian general was set upon by a group of local people incensed that two protesters had been injured, knocking off his military-issue fur hat and yelling, “Jail him.”
At the same time as Kramatorsk airport was being seized, elite Ukrainian units were also gathering outside the nearby city of Slavyansk in an operation aimed at taking back control from armed pro- Russian groups.
The deployment involved regular army troops alongside special forces from the interior ministry and the security service in at least nine troop carriers and seven buses. Tracked troop carriers could be seen parked in the woods.
It was the first major operation since the Ukrainian government vowed to take “anti-terrorist” action if the rebels did not vacate government buildings in eastern Ukraine. A smaller, abortive operation in Slavyansk on Sunday ended in a shoot-out, in which one Ukrainian soldier died and two were wounded, apparently by pro-Russian forces.