The surprise attack by the Lyashko-backed militia came
around 3 p.m., when five armed men stormed the Torez City Hall in Donetsk
Oblast. The gunmen immediately ran towards an office on the first floor,
where they opened fire on the two seperatists. Both were active supporters of the
Kremlin-backed, breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic.

Roman, 34, who celebrated a birthday on May 11, the day the
People’s Republic held a referendum on secession from Ukraine, lay face down in
a pool of blood in the office when the Kyiv Post arrived on the scene. A red,
black and blue flag of the breakaway republic hung above his body on the wall.
He lived and worked in the neighboring town of Shakhtarsk, acquaintances said. They declined to give his full name.

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Alexander, also of Shakhtarsk, whose family told the Kyiv Post
he was under 25 years old, was taken to the Torez central hospital with three
critical wounds, including one in the neck. Just before 8 p.m., Alexander
was set to undergo surgery. Family members asked that his last name not be used in this story.

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Myra, a relative, described Alexander as an average man who
“only wanted to live a normal life.”

A video published on YouTube shows five gunmen clad in all black entering and exiting the Torez city council building on May 23.

Desks and office items were strewn around the room, and a trail
of bloody footprints led towards the building’s exit.

Broken glass lay at the entrance to the building, where one
separatist, who refused to give the Kyiv Post his name, described being hit
with the butt of a rifle by the group of attackers.

Investigators told the Kyiv Post no less than 10 shots were
fired from at least one Kalashnikov rifle. Six slugs were pulled from the walls
of the office.

A local prosecutor at the scene noted that bullet holes were found on both sides of the office, suggesting that the separatists might have also fired at the militiamen. 

Bullets pulled from the walls of the office inside the Torez city council building.

Witnesses described seeing a group of men dressed head to toe in
all black clothing leaping from a bourdeaux-colored Neva off-road vehice and
storming the building. Some said the attackers resembled “ninjas.”

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Lyashko claimed responsibility for the deadly assault in a post
published on his Facebook page.

“Soldiers from the Lyashko Battalion ‘Ukraine’ have cleared
and liberated the city government building from the ‘Colorados’ in Torez,
Donetsk Oblast,” Lyashko wrote, referring to the the pro-Russian
separatists who have adopted the black-and-orange St. George’s ribbon, a symbol
of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, as their own.

“Two terrorists were killed, while among our men were no
injuries. Glory to Ukraine!” he added.

Lyashko is a member of parliament who leads the nationalist Radical Party. He polled in single digits for the May 25 presidential election and is not likely to finish in the first two places.

Interfax Ukraine, citing the Donetsk Regional State Administration, reported that two men perished in Torez.

On May 21, the press office of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) announced that Torez “people’s mayor” Iryna Poltoratska was detained and brought to Kyiv on suspicion of involvement with a terrorist organization. According to the SBU, Poltoratska carried out activities in support of separatist organs that plotted and organized the May 11 referendum in Torez.

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Torez, a city of some 70,000 people, is situated in the center
of the Donbas, a region in eastern Ukraine famous for its mining industry.

Kyiv Post editor Christopher J. Miller can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter at @ChristopherJM. Kyiv Post staff writer Isaac Webb can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter at @IsaacDWebb.

Editor’s Note: This article has been produced with travel support from www.mymedia.org.ua, funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark and implemented by a joint venture between NIRAS and BBC Media Action, as well as Ukraine Media Project, managed by Internews and funded by the United States Agency for International Development. The content is independent of these organizations and is solely the responsibility of the Kyiv Post. 

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