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Credit Zurab Kurtsikidze/European Pressphoto Agency
DONETSK, Ukraine â The acting president of Ukraine said on Wednesday that the police and security officials in several regions in the eastern part of the country could not control the pro-Russian militias demanding greater autonomy from the central government.
Speaking at a conference of regional leaders in Kiev, the capital, President Oleksandr V. Turchynov said the âoverwhelming majority of security forces in the east are not able to carry out their duty to defend our citizensâ in the industrial and coal-mining regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, where pro-Russian militants have seized government buildings in more than 10 cities.
Mr. Turchynov described security forces in the eastern part of the country as âhelpless,â adding that some members of the military were âcooperating with terrorist organizations,â a reference to the pro-Russian militias.
Mr. Turchynov also said that Ukrainian forces had been brought to âfull military readinessâ because of the threat of an invasion from Russia, which has asserted its right to protect ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking population in eastern Ukraine.
Hours before Mr. Turchynov spoke, pro-Russian gunmen seized government buildings in the city of Horlivka, expanding their control over a swath of territory nominally controlled by new âpeopleâs republicsâ opposed to Kiev.
The men seized the city police building and the City Council building early Wednesday morning, according to Igor Dyomin, a spokesman for the police in the Donetsk region. Anti-Kiev protesters seized a regional police headquarters in the city earlier in April.
On Tuesday, armed militants occupied the regional government headquarters and prosecutorâs office in the regional center of Luhansk. There was no resistance from the local police.
Mr. Turchynov last week resumed what he called an operation directed at ousting the masked, pro-Russian forces that have seized buildings in more than 10 Ukrainian cities and towns since March. Russian news organizations, citing evidence from satellite photographs, have claimed that Ukraine has mustered its military forces near Slovyansk for an attack on the city.
That operation has largely fallen flat, and pro-Russian forces have established a string of barricades and checkpoints on major highways throughout the two regions.
In Slovyansk, the most heavily fortified stronghold of the anti-Kiev movement in eastern Ukraine, the government said that it had eliminated three roadblocks in early morning confrontations with anti-Kiev militiamen.
Militiamen confirmed that there had been small skirmishes with gunmen at checkpoints in the northwestern part of the city, but they denied that any ground had been lost to government troops. . Neither side reported casualties in the clashes.
The city, which has a population of close to 115,000, sits on an important highway between Donetsk and Kharkiv, Ukraineâs second-largest city. Pro-Russian rallies there have led to violence, but militants have not been able to establish a foothold.
The police have ceased to operate in Slovyansk, where a citywide curfew takes effect at midnight. Pro-Russian militants in the city have taken journalists, politicians and others captive, including a German-led team of seven â military observers and an interpreter â working under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Three bodies that showed signs of torture have also been found in a river near the city in the last two weeks, but no suspects have been taken into custody. One of those killed was a lawmaker from the city of Horlivka who had spoken out in favor of Ukrainian unity, and another was a pro-Ukrainian student from Kiev. The third body has not been identified.
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