April 23 - The apparent torture and death of a city councilor in eastern Ukraine helps prompt the central government in the capital Kiev to resume its security operation to eliminate armed separatists. Mana Rabiee reports.
This is video from a Ukrainian online news site. It shows the town counselor in the eastern city of Horlivka last week. The website says he tried to remove the flag of pro-Russian separatists from town hall. 'Over my dead body', one of the men yells at him in the video. 'Kill this so-and-so' someone says. He seems to walk away but within hours, he would be dead. Police say his tortured body was discovered in a river. They think he was dumped alive and left to drown. In nearby Slaviansk, the latest flashpoint for separatists, a representative for the armed group says his men weren't responsible for what happened to the counselor. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) SLAVIANSK SEPARATIST REPRESENTATIVE, YEVGENY GORBIK, SAYING, (REGARDING MISSING HORLIVKA CITY DEPUTY VOLODYMYR RYBAK): "Maybe it's a criminal argument or maybe it's political, most likely it's revenge. Maybe he started to cooperate, who knows?" The city councilor's apparent murder helped prompt the central government in Kiev to end its Easter truce with separatists. It's resuming its security operation to regain control of some ten eastern cities and towns occupied by armed men who want greater autonomy or outright annexation to neighboring Russia. Ukraine's first deputy prime minister speaking on Wednesday. (SOUNDBITE) (Ukrainian) FIRST DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER, VITALY YAREMA, SAYING: "The active state of the anti-terror operation is continuing. Law enforcement bodies are working on the destruction of gangster groups in Kramatorsk, Sloviansk and other cities in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions" In Slaviansk, where separatists occupy a police station, an uneasy calm hangs over the barricades. An attack, they say, feels imminent. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) SLAVIANSK RESIDENT, VICTORIA, SAYING: "The fact that they want to take over the region is unmistakable. And I think there will be some kind of storming of the barricades." (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) SLAVIANSK RESIDENT, ALEXANDER, SAYING: "Tension for people here is very high around the clock. It is less tense during day time, but at night something will happen sooner or later." Russia says it will intervene if its interests in Ukraine are attacked. The U.S. is sending hundreds of troops to Poland and Baltic states for exercises, a gesture to reassure its NATO allies.