In Long-Roiled Ukraine, War Mentality Turns Outward
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
The Ukrainian military ramped up air and artillery strikes against pro-Russian separatists today. The offensive in Ukraine's eastern provinces resumed after President Petro Poroshenko declared he would not renew a 10-day ceasefire. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow would protect the interests of ethnic Russians in other countries but he didn't offer a specific support to the rebels in Ukraine. Here's NPR's Corey Flintoff.
COREY FLINTOFF, BYLINE: Poroshenko announced late last night that Ukraine's armed forces are no longer bound by the terms of the ceasefire.
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PRESIDENT PETRO POROSHENKO: (Through translator) We will attack and liberate our land. Termination of the ceasefire is our response to terrorists, insurgents, marauders, everyone who tortures civilians and paralyzes the economy of the region.
FLINTOFF: Poroshenko called on the residents of Donetsk and Lugansk to practice civil disobedience against the separatists who've declared independence in their regions. Ukraine says Russia instigated the separatist movements and continues to support them by allowing weapons, fighters and supplies to cross the border from Russia. In Moscow, President Putin gave a speech today in which he cast himself in the role of a peacemaker.
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PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: (Through translator) Unfortunately, President Poroshenko took the decision to restart military operations, and we - I mean myself and my European colleagues - could not convince him that the role to a stable, strong and long-lasting peace does not lie through war.
FLINTOFF: Poroshenko's decision did come after hours of telephone discussions with the leaders of Germany, France and Russia. But he was also feeling domestic pressure. On Sunday, tens of thousands of demonstrators massed in central Kiev to demand action. Speakers called on Poroshenko to end the ceasefire and declare a state of emergency in the East. Ukrainian army commanders were also reported to be demanding a free hand to fight. Ukraine's Defense Ministry said that 27 Ukrainian soldiers were killed by rebels who violated the ceasefire. Analysts say that the mood in West and central Ukraine has become more militant. This is Volodymyr Panioto, sociologist and professor at Kyiv-Mohyla University, who's been sampling public opinion throughout Ukraine.
VOLODYMYR PANIOTO: The majority of persons became much more patriotic, and the desire to join Russia decreased to a great extent.
FLINTOFF: Panioto says that even in eastern Ukraine, where the separatists have declared independent republics, support for the rebellion and for joining Russia is not strong. In Kiev, more people say that they feel their country is at war and citizens need support the war effort. Businessman Oleksandr Klymenko stopped by a makeshift memorial to those killed during the protests in Kiev's central square, the Maidan.
OLEKSANDR KLYMENKO: (Through translator) This is very sad, and I don't understand why our government doesn't react. This Russian aggression could be stopped fast.
FLINTOFF: When asked if he thought Ukraine needed to fight to keep the eastern provinces, he said, definitely. It has to be done, and it should've been done a long time ago. Corey Flintoff, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.