KIEV’S military faced off with protesters in east Ukraine on Wednesday to sort out their differences. . . and found none. Soldiers appeared reluctant to go into battle against anti-government activists.
When Ukrainian Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) entered downtown Kramatorsk as part of Kiev’s military operation against anti-government protesters in the east of the country, they were stopped in their tracks, surrounded by crowds of local residents.
One woman reproached a soldier: ‘You are the army, you must protect the people.’ ‘We are not going to shoot, we weren’t even going to,’ was the soldier’s reply.
Similar conversations could be heard at each of several APCs which entered the city, with locals promising to defend their neighbours, in case the soldiers start a military operation.
Military vehicles parked in downtown Kramatorsk have turned into hotspots for political discussion, with people beside the vehicles trying to get their views through to people on top of the tanks.
The Kramatorsk crowds were loudly chanting ‘Army with the people’ and applauding the soldiers as they were leaving their APCs.
Six Ukrainian military vehicles in Kramatorsk actually switched sides and began flying Russian flags on Wednesday.
Later a report emerged that three more Ukrainian armoured vehicles had switched sides in the Donetsk Region. The vehicles came to the centre of Slavyansk, took down their Ukrainian flags and handed their weapons to self-defence squads.
‘We decided not to be at war with the people and not to defend authorities like this,’ members of the crews explained to RIA Novosti.
Immediately after the column of armoured vehicles was blocked near the local market, local residents surrounded the column with a human chain, but did nothing more, Vladimir said.
The soldiers and civilians started fraternising very quickly and soon were joking about ‘coming for a visit without weapons next time.’ Many of the soldiers put on St George’s ribbons, the traditional Russian emblem used to commemorate the Soviet Union’s fight against Nazism in World War II.