Donetsk (Ukraine): Russian President Vladimir Putin said today that Ukraine should withdraw its military units from the eastern and southern regions of the country, where anti-government insurgents are seizing buildings, but hours later, Ukraine`s acting president ordered the military draft be renewed as the unrest intensifies.
Although Ukraine last year announced plans to end military conscription and transfer to an all-volunteer force, Oleksandr Turchynov said in his order that the draft must be renewed in light of "threats of encroachment on Ukraine`s territorial integrity and interference by Russia in the internal affairs of Ukraine."
Moscow has consistently denounced Ukrainian security forces` largely ineffectual "anti-terrorist" operation against the eastern insurgents and warned they shouldn`t commit violence against civilians. In a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Putin said the removal of military units from the south and east was the "main thing," but it was unclear if that could be construed as an outright demand.
Turchynov`s order didn`t specify where conscript- bolstered forces could be deployed. Earlier in the week, he said police and security forces had been effectively "helpless" against insurgents in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the heart of the unrest, and that efforts should be focused on preventing its spread to other parts of the country.
In the regional capital city of Donetsk, anti-government demonstrators took over the regional prosecutor`s office today. Several dozen riot police standing guard at the regional prosecutor`s office fired stun grenades and tear gas when some at the front of the crowd of several hundred people attempted to force their way into the building in Donetsk.
As the confrontation escalated, some in the crowd threw rocks and managed to wrest away shields from police. An Associated Press reporter saw a handful of officers being dragged away and beaten by members of the crowd.
Hundreds of onlookers accompanying the protesters, who included several crying children, shouted slogans and hurled abuse.
A car outside the building blared out patriotic World War II music. Inside, a passenger waved a flag bearing a doctored image of Soviet leader Josef Stalin in a black vest and holding a machine gun superimposed with the words: "Death to Fascism."
Upon occupying the building, protesters discarded the Ukrainian flag and replaced it with that of the Donetsk People`s Republic, a movement that seeks either greater autonomy from the central government, or independence and possible annexation by Russia.