Published time: August 28, 2014 12:50
Edited time: August 28, 2014 20:34
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Hundreds of people have gathered in front of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry in Kiev, demanding resignation of President Petro Poroshenko and the defense minister over the poor handling of the military operation in the southeast.
The demonstrators, many of whom were mothers and wives of the soldiers involved in the fighting in the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions, have blocked traffic at one of the capital’s arterial roads, the Vozdukhoflotsky Boulevard.
They called on the army to urgently send reinforcements, including tanks and other heavy military vehicles, to the city of Ilovaysk in the Donetsk Region.
This strategic town was retaken by the self-defense forces after several days of fighting on Wednesday, which led to the encirclement of a large group of Kiev’s troops.
The protesters also insisted on the resignation of defense minister Valery Geletey and all other top commanders of Kiev’s so-called “anti-terrorist operation” in southeast Ukraine.
A man holds a placard ” General Staff save Ukraine but not your asses!” during the rally in front of the Ukrainian Defence Ministery in Kiev on August 28, 2014.(AFP Photo / Sergei Supinsky)
A group of youths tried to hustle away the soldiers guarding the entrance to the building and make their way into the Defense Ministry, RIA-Novosti news agency reports.
But they were asked to stand down by other rally participants, who didn’t want their action to be discredited.
The commander of the Donbass battalion, fighting against the militia in southeast Ukraine, Semyon Semyontchenko, has talked to the crowd via a bullhorn, asking the protesters to “show unity.”
After several hours outside the Defense Ministry, the demonstrators moved toward the presidential administration building.
A police officer tries to prevent activists and relatives of soldiers who say that the soldiers are surrounded by self-defense forces in eastern Ukraine, from getting into the defence ministry building during a protest in Kiev August 28, 2014.(Reuters / Valentyn Ogirenko)
The protesters said that they would remain on the streets until their demands were met by the authorities.
Several hours later, the traffic on the Ukrainian capital’s main street, Khreshchatyk, was also paralyzed by demonstrators chanting: “Kiev, rise up!”
According to the Itar-Tass news agency, they urged all Kiev residents to join their protest, including recently elected mayor and former boxing world champion Vitaly Klitschko.
The demands at Khreshchatyk were similar – to impeach President Poroshenko and calling for the resignation of the country’s top military officials.
The mothers and wives of Ukrainian soldiers also blocked an inter-city highway in the town of Krivoy Rog.
The women said they were in despair as the situation within the Ukrainian military units fighting in the southeast is critical, Channel One reports.
“There’s no food, no water, no weapons. There’s lack of personnel,” said a female demonstrator, who was holding a banner that read, “Save our husbands!”
Ukraine has been engulfed in violent internal conflict since April, when Kiev’s military began its crackdown on southeastern regions of the country.
The Donetsk and Lugansk regions refused to recognize the new coup-imposed authorities and demanded federalization of the country.
According to United Nations’ estimates released Tuesday, over 2,249 people have so far been killed and over 6,033 wounded in the fighting in eastern Ukraine.
The number of internally displaced Ukrainians has reached 190,000, with another 207,000 finding refuge in Russia, the UN said.