MOSCOW, April 24 (RIA Novosti) – National guard units, as well as battalions from the ultra-nationalist Right Sector movement, are attacking civilians in southeastern Ukraine, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Thursday.
“Civilians are being attacked by national guard units as well as by battalions of extremists from Right Sector,” Shoigu said.
“The crackdown on civilians is being carried out by fighters of Ukrainian Security Special Forces and the Interior Ministry, left in Donetsk and Luhansk,” Shoigu added.
More than 11,000 Ukrainian soldiers, 160 tanks, 230 infantry vehicles and APCs and at least 150 artillery pieces are being employed in the crackdown in southeastern Ukraine, the minister said.
"According to our data, a contingent of over 11,000 people fully equipped with automatic weapons has been deployed. The operation involves about 160 tanks, more than 230 infantry fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers, at least 150 guns and mortars and a large number of aircraft," Shoigu said.
Earlier today, a skirmish broke out between unidentified gunmen and local federalists near the eastern Ukrainian city of Slaviansk on Thursday, killing at least five people.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said that if Kiev has actually deployed its army in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slaviansk, then that is a serious crime against its own people.
The Security Service of Ukraine announced Wednesday that the military operation launched by Ukrainian authorities earlier this month against protesters in eastern Ukraine had again entered an active phase, following a temporary suspension after an agreement reached in Geneva last week.
Ukrainian authorities launched a special operation to crack down on pro-federalization activists in eastern regions of the country that have been swept by rallies since last month.
Protesters in Kharkiv, Donetsk, Gorlovka, Slaviansk and Kramatorsk refuse to recognize the legitimacy of the current Ukrainian government and are urging interim authorities to hold referendums similar to the one held in Crimea last month, which led to the republic's reunification with Russia.