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 Armored 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 YouTube video of what happened next shows a woman coming to a soldier with the reproach: “You are the army, you must protect the people.”
“We are not going to shoot, we weren’t even going to,” is the soldier’s reply.
Similar conversations could be heard at each of several APCs which entered the city, with locals promising to defend their neighbors, 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.
Another video features the Kramatorsk crowds loudly chanting “Army with the people” and applauding the soldiers as they were leaving their APCs.
“Guys, we are with you! You are great!” women are heard yelling to the vacating soldiers.
Six Ukrainian military vehicles in Kramatorsk actually switched sides and began flying Russian flags on Wednesday.
Around 60 crew members of Ukrainian armored vehicles sent to Kramatorsk for carrying out the military operation against anti-government protesters, have switched sides and joined the local self-defense squads, according to RIA Novosti, citing the self-defense leadership.
“We’ve seen here, that these are neither separatists nor terrorists, but ordinary local residents, with whom we are not going to go to battle,” one of the defected soldiers said.
All of the troops who decided to side with the self-defense come from the Dnepropetrovsk region, neighboring with the Donetsk one.
This YouTube video shows an encounter where some of the Ukrainian military vehicles raise Russian flags, while others raise the flags of the Donetsk People’s Republic that the supporters of federalization want to establish. The crowd reacted with loud cheers.
The soldiers and civilians started fraternizing 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.
Tuesday, when the military operation against anti-government protesters in the east was launched, was not as peaceful.
According to activists, four people were killed and two others injured when troops seized an airfield in Kramatorsk, which had earlier been controlled by protesters.