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Ukrainians 'helpless' to stifle unrest

| Wednesday, April 30, 2014, 6:06 p.m.

HORLIVKA, Ukraine — Ukraine's acting president conceded on Wednesday that his police and security forces were “helpless” to stifle unrest in the country's east, where pro-Russia gunmen seized more buildings, walking into the police station and mayor's office in this mining hub without resistance.

Insurgents also took control of the customs service building in Donetsk, the region's main city, and city hall in Alchevsk, an industrial center of about 110,000, adding to the scores of buildings taken by the separatists over the past month in the east. A dozen eastern cities are now in the hands of the separatists.

Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov has twice proclaimed “anti-terrorist” operations to regain control of the east, but to little effect. In a meeting with officials from other Ukrainian regions, he acknowledged the failure and indicated the government would back off even trying to bring the most restive parts of the east to heel, focusing instead on trying to keep the unrest from spreading to other parts of the nation of 46 million.

“I will be frank: Today, security forces are unable to quickly take the situation in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions under control,” Turchynov said. “The security bodies ... are unable to carry out their duties of protecting citizens. They are helpless in those matters.”

“Moreover, some of those units are either helping or cooperating with terrorist organizations,” he said.

Hours after Turchynov spoke, authorities in the capital, Kiev, announced security forces would hold exercises overnight. The maneuvers could be aimed at reassuring Ukrainians that the government was not capitulating. But they are also likely to be seen as an aggressive move by the eastern insurgents, who claim the government is a nationalist cabal intent on suppressing the east's large Russian-speaking population.

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