Three Russian-backed militants killed in attack on Ukrainian base in Mariupol

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April 17, 2014, 9:34 a.m. | Ukraine Politics — by Mark Rachkevych

Pro-Russian protesters hold a rally outside the mayor's office in Mariupol, which was seized by by Kremlin-backed militants on April 13, 2014.

Mark Rachkevych

Mark has been a reporter for the Kyiv Post since 2006, but joined full-time in 2009. A native Chicagoan, Mark currently is editor-at-large and still contributes stories on an ongoing basis. He has written bylines with the Financial Times, Bloomberg News, Associated Press, Irish Times, and Ukraine Business Insight, among other publications. He is a former U.S. Peace Corps volunteer, a graduate of St. Norbert College in Wisconsin, and fluent in the Ukrainian and Russian languages.

Ukrainian National Guardsmen overnight on April 17 killed 3 Kremlin-backed militants and injured 13 more when a large group tried taking over their military base in Mariupol, Donetsk Oblast’s second largest city situated on the coast of the Azov Sea, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov stated on his Facebook page. 

When an armed mob of about 50 Russian-backed insurgents started shooting with weapons and throwing incendiary and explosive devices at the National Guard troops, they fired warning shots at them, said Avakov. When the armed crowd attacked again, the Ukrainian troops shot to kill.

Together with a special Interior Ministry unit, the Ukrainian forces dispersed most of the crowd of 300, arresting 63. The core of the group was corralled and the militant crowd was broken up.

Weapons were taken as well as Russian mobile phone communication devices.

The operation isn’t over yet, said Avakov. Police continue to pursue an armed group.

Together with the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), police are collecting evidence and identifying the pro-Russian insurgents.

On April 16, the SBU presented more evidence of Russian involvement in the uprisings in southeastern Ukraine where government buildings and police stations have been taken in at least 9 cities in Donetsk Oblast and the SBU building in Luhansk Oblast.

Russia has denied involvement of the insurgency in south and east.

However, the SBU says that Russian military intelligence officer Igor Strelkov is the coordinator in the region. He allegedly commands Russian subversive airborne troops and military intelligence officers in eastern Ukraine. More than 40 Russian military intelligence officers and their trained Russian and Ukrainian agents have been captured thus far. According to the SBU, the agents receive training either in Crimea or in Russia where they receive instructions from their handlers on how to take over buildings, recruit others, gather intelligence on Ukrainian military troop movements as well as other subversive and terrorist activities.

The Russian and Ukrainian agents appear to be well financed. The SBU said an unnamed Russian bank transferred Hr 45 million ($3.75 million) between March and April for the financing of Kremlin-backed militant groups.

Altogether, Ukraine’s General Prosecutor is investigating 14 banks for financing terrorism or separatism, including Sberbank, a state-owned Russian bank. Sberbank released a statement denying the accusation.

Kyiv Post editor Mark Rachkevych can be reached at 

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