KIEV, May 7 (RIA Novosti) – The Ukrainian Interior Ministry has arrested the Defense Minister of the rebellious Donetsk People’s Republic during an ambush of a bus followed by an intense shootout, the ministry said Wednesday.
“There was a real battle there which lasted over an hour, law enforcers were being shot at from machine guns and semi-automatic Kalashnikovs, the bus driver was injured,” Anton Herashchenko, an aide to the ministry, was quoted as saying in a statement.
According to Herashchenko, Donetsk People’s Republic Defense Minister Igor Kakidzyanov was seized together with other activists in the Donetsk region. The operation was carried out by a battalion of the police’s Azov Special Forces.
Police alleged that the shooter who attacked the bus was killed and another two attackers were taken prisoner, including the defense minister.
Federalization supporters in the eastern city of Donetsk have refused to recognize the legitimacy of the current Ukrainian government, demanding Crimea-style referendums on the status of their regions.
Last month, pro-federalization supporters took over Donetsk’s regional administration, declared an independent People’s Republic of Donetsk and scheduled a referendum on the status of the region for May 11.
Kiev’s current authorities have launched a special operation to crack down on the protesters, leading to violent clashes in major towns of southeastern Ukraine and dozens of casualties. Last Friday, 46 protesters were killed and over 200 were injured in the port city of Odessa.