Ukraine authorities scramble to avoid unrest flashpoint

AP News
|
Posted: Mar 17, 2015 7:54 AM

KOSTYANTYNIVKA , Ukraine (AP) — Residents in the eastern Ukrainian town of Kostyantynivka angrily confronted police officials Tuesday over an accident in which an armored military vehicle struck and killed an 8-year old girl.

Donetsk region head of police Vyacheslav Abroskin rushed to the town in a bid to soothe tempers and avoid the mass unrest of the night before, when enraged crowds turned over a police car and set fire to a bus.

Clashes broke out in the evening in front of a dormitory that has been commandeered by soldiers engaged in combat against Russian-backed separatists occupying swaths of the Donetsk region.

Authorities said ringleaders of the night's trouble were detained. A group of more than 50 people, including mothers with small children, gathered at the scene of Monday's accident and remonstrated with Abroskin when he arrived to inspect the scene.

Military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said troops in charge of the light-armored tow vehicle involved in the crash are among several people under investigation.

"The commander of the military unit in which the soldiers serve has been suspended for the duration of the investigation," Lysenko said. "The case is being supervised personally by the chief military prosecutor and the president of Ukraine."

Kostyantynivka is around 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the front line between government and separatist forces. A cease-fire agreed between the warring sides in February is in place and has largely held, but tensions remain high in towns closest to the front line.

Although now under government control, Kostyantynivka was held by rebel forces for almost three months in the spring last year. Attitudes toward the Ukrainian authorities in the town vary widely and many residents retain sympathies for the separatists.

The prompt reaction by senior officials to the incident underlines anxiety at a possible renewal in the type of crowd unrest that last year spiraled into a conflict that has left more than 6,000 dead.

____________________________

Peter Leonard in Kiev, Ukraine, contributed to this report.