ERR in Ukraine: Military in Province, Still Quiet in Town of Slovyansk ({{commentsTotal}})

After an apparent initial lack of action, the Ukrainian military launched its "antiterrorist" operation in Donetsk oblast, with exchange of fire reported between security forces and separatists.

The ERR correspondent in the province, Astrid Kannel, continued to report little signs of violence or even a standoff. Last night, the central square of the town of Slovyansk remained calm just as the situation had been in Donetsk the day before, ETV reported, with the city government in the hands of separatists.

No barricades were readily apparent; separatists interviewed said the defenses against an attack, assumed impending, were located some distance away. Journalists were no longer being given tours of the area, one separatist said, after their "hospitality was abused" on a previous occasion.

"One journalist came in, filmed everything, recording our defense plans. But our lives depend on it," said Andrei, who identified himself only his first name, and as a separatist.

The whereabouts of the toppled mayor of Slovyansk are unknown. A businessman, Rinat Vorbjov, told ETV the city is in anarchy, with institutions closed.

A teacher, who identified herself as Svetlana, said her own students were also out on the barricades, and the posts weren't manned by "Russian special forces, as Kyiv claims."

She said "the EU and the US" should "leave her people alone."

"Why are we provoked all the time into wanting to be friends with the US or Russia?" Svetlana said. "What do you think, if my mother is from Russia and I have relatives in Belarus, is my stock more likely to be crossed with America or with Russia?"

Others have a different view and hold out hopes for the arrival of the Ukrainians.

"Ukrainian military units are 40 kilometers from Slovyansk and they are clearly prepared for something," said Astrid Kannel, still on location in Slovyansk.

Ukrainian military have been loath to comment, saying they are there to support the police and will take no action against the law-abiding part of the population.

Ukrainian media reported that armored combat vehicles and helicopters brought about a 500-strong Ukrainian military unit into Slovyansk on Tuesday evening.

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