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September 18, 2021
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Ukraine ‘disbands elite Berkut anti-riot police’

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called on other countries to condemn “nationalist and neo-fascist” sentiment in western Ukraine. Tensions are rising in Crimea. Ukraine’s Turchynov expressed concern about what he called the serious threat of separatism.
Ukraine’s acting interior minister has said the elite Berkut police unit, blamed for the deaths of protesters, has been disbanded.
It is unclear what will happen to Berkut officers, but Arsen Avakov said more details were to be given in a briefing on Wednesday, the BBC reports. The unit had 4,000-5,000 members stationed across Ukraine.
Meanwhile, a new cabinet is expected to be presented to protesters in Kiev on Wednesday afternoon.
Also on Wednesday Mr Turchynov announced that he had assumed the duties of the head of the armed forces.
Ousted President Viktor Yanukovych fled Kiev at the weekend and his whereabouts are still unknown.
Interim authorities have issued a warrant for his arrest, and on Tuesday parliament voted in favour of trying him at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.
The fugitive president is accused of being behind the deaths of more than 100 protesters at the hands of riot police.
Any new government will face a daunting set of challenges, with many areas of government in Ukraine needing urgent reform, the BBC’s David Stern in Kiev reports.
The much-despised Berkut are just one part of the security and law enforcement agencies, which have long been accused by human rights groups and local citizens of human rights abuses.
Also on Wednesday Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called on other countries to condemn “nationalist and neo-fascist” sentiment in western Ukraine.
Mr Lavrov called on the OSCE to condemn “calls to ban the Russian language, to turn the Russian-speaking population into ‘non-citizens’ and to restrict freedom of expression”. Russia has portrayed the ousting of Mr Yanukovych as a violent seizure of power by the opposition, and has expressed concern about the role of far-right parties in the protests against him.
The US and EU countries have broadly backed the takeover of power by the opposition.
Many Russian-speaking residents in the south and east of Ukraine have protested against the actions of the interim authorities.
Ukraine’s Mr Turchynov expressed concern about what he called the serious threat of separatism following the ousting of Mr Yanukovych.
Addressing parliament, he said he would meet law enforcement agencies to discuss the risk of separatism in regions with large ethnic Russian populations. Separatism was a “serious threat”, he said.
Mr Yanukovych fled Kiev at the weekend and his whereabouts are still unknown.
Interim authorities have issued a warrant for his arrest, and on Tuesday parliament voted in favour of trying him at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.
The fugitive president is accused of being behind the deaths of more than 100 protesters at the hands of riot police.
Unrest in Ukraine began in November when Mr Yanukovych rejected a landmark association and trade deal with the EU in favour of closer ties with Russia.
Ukraine is close to bankruptcy and with promised loans from Russia looking increasingly unlikely, interim leaders are looking to the West to bail the country out.
EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton held talks in Kiev on Tuesday to discuss financial and political support for Ukraine’s new leaders. She urged the provisional authorities to include Yanukovych supporters in any new government, adding: “Everyone I’ve spoken to here recognises the importance of this country sticking together. But we also know that there are big financial and economic challenges in the days, weeks and months ahead.”
Putin puts troops on alert in western Russia
President Vladimir Putin put armed forces in western Russia ‘on alert’ this morning, amid rising tensions in the pro-Russian Crimea over the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovich by pro-European protesters, telegrapg.co.uk informs. In a sign of Moscow’s displeasure at the revolution in Kiev, Mr Putin ordered an urgent drill to test troops’ combat readiness.
“In accordance with an order from the president of the Russian Federation, forces of the Western Military District were put on alert at 1400 today,” Interfax quoted Sergei Shoigu, the Russian Defence Minister, as saying.
Scuffles as pro- and anti-Russian crowds protest in Ukraine’s Crimea
Tensions are rising in Crimea, where two big rival protests are being staged.
Crimean Tatars and local activists supporting the demonstrators on Kiev have gathered in front of the autonomous republic’s parliament in Simferopol, the BBC reports.
They are facing a pro-Russian demonstration, with only a police cordon separating the two rallies.
The Crimean Tatars say they will resist any attempts at secession by pro-Russian political forces. The two rival rallies have been called ahead of a planned session of Crimea’s parliament, where the issue of Crimea’s status is expected to be raised.
Crimea – where ethnic Russians are in a majority – was transferred from Russia to Ukraine in 1954.
The change of government in Kiev has raised questions over the future of Russia’s naval bases in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol, the lease for which was extended until 2042 by Mr Yanukovych.
Most experts believe that the new leadership will not push for the withdrawal of the Russian fleet, as this could further threaten Ukraine’s internal stability as well as the country’s fragile relations with Russia, the BBC’s Ilya Abishev reports.
Thousands of pro- and anti-Russian demonstrators were rallying yesterday in front of the parliament building in Simferpol, the capital of Ukraine’s autonomous Crimea region. Scuffles are occasionally breaking out between the two sides in the face-to-face protests, rt.com informs.
The rival groups are protesting for and against the new national authorities in Kiev. Part of the residents proclaimed that Crimea will not going to obey Kiev, while the local Muslim community of Crimean Tatars expressed support for the new Ukrainian authorities.
Two separate rallies, consisting of several thousands of protesters, are facing each other. Russians are shouting “Russia-Russia!” and “Berkut!”, the name of the special police task force disbanded yesterday by the new Ukrainian authorities, who blame them for heavy-handed policing of opposition activists in recent months in central Kiev. The Muslim community protesters are shouting “Ukraine-Ukraine!” and “Crimea is not Russia!” Pro-Russian demonstrators are holding Russian flags, while Tatars are holding Ukrainian flags and flags of their own nationalist organizations.

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