Ukraine crisis: Interim government to reintroduce military conscription in face of Russian security threat

President Turchynov said he made the decision in light of Russian "threats" against "Ukrainian integrity"

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The interim Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov announced on Thursday that the country will renew military conscription, in response to what the government views as an intensifying security threat from Russia.

The decision came hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Ukraine should end its military presence in the eastern and southern regions of the country, where pro-Moscow insurgents have seized buildings. 

Last year Ukraine announced plans for its army to become an all-volunteer force, but Mr Turchynov ordered on Thursday that the draft must be re-instated in light of “threats of encroachment on Ukraine's territorial integrity and interference by Russia in the internal affairs of Ukraine.”

Mr Turchynov did not, however, specify if new conscripts would be deployed.

Earlier in the day, anti-government protesters took over the regional prosecutor’s office in the city of Donetsk, after riot police were unable to stop activists from entering the building using stun grenades and tear gas. 

As the confrontation escalated, some in the crowd threw rocks and managed to wrest away shields from police. An Associated Press reporter saw a handful of officers being dragged away and beaten by members of the crowd.

Meanwhile, in the town of Amvrosiivka, around 30 armed men arrived in six cars and took over the city council and forced the mayor to resign, according to local news website Novosti.

Protests have been taking place in eastern provinces bordering Russia for weeks, where support for ousted pro-Moscow former President Viktor Yanukovych has not abated.

Read more: Death toll rises in a nation fearful of more bloodshed

Mr Turchynov has twice proclaimed “anti-terrorist” operations to regain control of the east, but with little success.

The assault on the prosecutor's office involved protesters more heavily armed than in other government office seizures, with at least one firebomb being thrown at the building during the clash.

Armed protests have been focused on Slovyansk, a city 110 kilometers (70 miles) north of Donetsk, in which seven European observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe remain held by pro-Russia gunmen.

On Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel asked President Putin his assistance in freeing the group during a phone conversation on Thursday.

Christiane Wirtz, a spokeswoman for Merkel, said the conversation focused on the “the continuing hostage-taking of the OSCE observers by separatists in eastern Ukraine.”

She added that Mrs Merkel “appealed to the president to use his influence” in resolving the situation.

Russia denies allegations from Kiev and the West that it is influencing or fomenting the unrest in eastern Ukraine. The Kremlin also confirmed the conversation and said Putin stressed “the main thing was for Ukraine to withdraw its troops from southeastern Ukraine, stop the violence and quickly start a broad national dialogue on constitutional reform.”

On Wednesday, Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said it had detained the military attache at Russia's embassy on suspicion of spying and would remove him from the country. Russia has made no public comment on the issue.

Additional reporting by AP