ST. PETERSBURG, April 24 (RIA Novosti) – If Kiev has actually deployed its army in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slaviansk, then that is a serious crime against its own people, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday.
“If today’s regime in Kiev has actually begun using its army against civilians within the country, then that, without a doubt, is a serious crime against its people,” Putin said during a media forum in St. Petersburg.
Earlier today, a gunfight broke out between unidentified gunmen and local federalists near the eastern Ukrainian city of Slaviansk. Two men were killed and an unspecified number were injured.
Slaviansk residents were warned not to leave their homes. The people’s mayor of Slaviansk informed RIA Novosti reporters that armored vehicles of the Ukrainian army were advancing toward the city.
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.