Reports from Slavyansk say that the army troops sent to the eastern Ukrainian city for an “anti-terrorist operation” are leaving en masse. Some troops are openly voicing support for the eastern Ukrainians, while others are speaking out against a war.
According to Interfax, citing local self-defense activists, some 300 Ukrainian troops agreed to lay down their weapons and “go home” following negotiations in Slavyansk.
“We managed to negotiate with them. About 300 military – only some of those who closed around the city – decided to lay down their arms and go home,” a self-defense activist was quoted as saying.
Conflicting reports are emerging about whether the activists would or would not allow the troops to keep their weapons and APCs. According to Western media journalists present at the scene, the locals would not allow them to take back the APCs surrendered earlier, but the soldiers were allowed to march away with their rifles.
Meanwhile, the anti-government activists guarding the armored vehicles have said that they did not “seize” them as the media claimed, and that the troops “switched sides” peacefully.
“They were not seized by the self-defense forces. In fact, the Ukrainian troops arrived here flying a Russian flag. In this way, they have taken the side of the people,” a Slavyansk activist told Russia-24 TV.
Similar developments have earlier been witnessed in another Donetsk region city of Kromatorsk, where the Ukrainian troops started entering on Tuesday after taking by force a nearby airfield captured by armed self-defense activists.
As Ukrainian armored vehicles rolled into the city’s center on Wednesday, they were surrounded by locals and surrendered. Some of the APCs were filmed flying Russian flags in support of the locals. Kiev eventually confirmed that six APCs were taken away in Kromatorsk but claimed that they were “captured by the extremists.” Earlier, coup-imposed Kiev officials dismissed the news as “fake” and even claimed that by raising Russian flags the troops “infiltrated” the areas “controlled by Russian Army units and separatists.”