The Guardian reports: On the steps of Slavyansk’s occupied town hall a group of armed men in fatigues posed happily for photos. They were equipped with Kalashnikovs – military-issue AK-74s – commando knives, flak jackets and walkie-talkies. Round the back, close to the main square with its Lenin statue, was a green military truck. It bore no insignia.
Who exactly were they? “We’re Cossacks,” one of the group explained. “It doesn’t matter where we are from.” He declined to give his name. Instead, he offered a quick history lesson, stretching back a thousand years, to when Slavic tribes banded together to form Kievan Rus – the dynasty that eventually flourished into modern-day Ukraine and its big neighbour Russia.
“We don’t want Ukraine. Ukraine doesn’t exist for us. There are no people called Ukrainians,” he declared. “There are just Slav people who used to be in Kievan Rus, before Jews like Trotsky divided us. We should all be together again.” The man – a middle-aged commando with a bushy beard – said he had come to Slavyansk “to help”. He didn’t intend to kill anybody, he said. Producing a long knife, he said: “I can’t kill my brother Slavs.”
The mysterious “Cossacks” arrived in Slavyansk, 40 miles (65km) north of Donetsk, on Saturday. Similar “Cossacks” popped up in Crimea too, soon after Russia invaded and then annexed the territory. According to Kiev’s hapless interim government, Russia is behind the apparently co-ordinated takeover by masked men in military uniforms of government buildings all across eastern Ukraine. The US and EU agree. Moscow denies the charge. It says that the west blames it for everything.
One of the “Cossacks”, however, admitted on Monday that he had just arrived from Crimea, where he spent a month “helping” with Russia’s takeover there. How had he managed to travel from Russian-controlled territory to the east of the country? And from where did he get his Kalashnikov? He declined to answer but claimed the weapon had come from a seized police station, although Ukraine’s police use different, smaller ones. [Continue reading…]
Meanwhile, the Security Service of Ukraine released a recording of what are alleged to be intercepted conversations by Russian military intelligence groups operating in Eastern Ukraine under command of Joint Staff of Russian Armed Forces. Click the “CC” button to view English captions.