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Ukraine 'Helpless' Against Pro-Russian Gunmen

Acting president Alexander Turchinov insists eastern Ukraine being taken over by 'terrorist organizations,' says police 'helpless.'
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 4/30/2014, 4:04 PM

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine
Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine
Reuters

Pro-Russian gunmen tightened their control of eastern Ukraine Wednesday, seizing government buildings in yet another town with little to no police opposition, according to local media. 

"They've taken them. The government administration and police," the police official said of Horlivka. The town is just north of Donetsk, the center of recent clashes between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian demonstrators. 

Tuesday, armed gunmen seized government buildings in Luhansk, another major city at the heart of the conflict. 

Alexander Turchinov, Ukraine's acting president, reiterated on Wednesday that police are incapable of asserting control in the region. 

"I will be frank: Today, security forces are unable to quickly take the situation in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions under control," Turchinov said at a meeting with regional governors in Kiev. He was quoted by local news agency Interfax

"The security bodies ... are unable to carry out their duties of protecting citizens," he continued. "They are helpless in those matters. Moreover, some of those units are either helping or cooperating with terrorist organizations."

Turchinov stressed that the main issue, for now, is containment - and preventing Russian authorities, in his words, from preventing the elections. 

"Our main task is to prevent the terrorist threat from spreading to other regions of Ukraine," he urged. "The Russian leadership is doing everything to prevent the election. But the election will take place on May 25."

Eastern Ukraine in particular has been the seat of pro-Russian tensions since earlier this month, when neighboring Crimea held a controversial referendum vote and was annexed by Moscow after a de facto military invasion of the region.

landmark deal reached last week between Russia, the US and the European Union (EU) called for the separatists, who have been seizing government buildings in eastern Ukraine for several days, to disarm and stand down - in exchange for amnesty. The pro-Russian protesters have largely ignored the deal, however, claiming that the agreement does not apply to them.