first_imgSLOVYANSK, Ukraine — Pro-Russian insurgents commandeered six Ukrainian armored vehicles along with their crews and hoisted Russian flags over them Wednesday, dampening the central government’s hopes of re-establishing control over restive eastern Ukraine.The Ukrainian soldiers manning the vehicles offered no armed resistance, and masked pro-Russian militias in combat fatigues sat on top as they drove into the eastern city of Slovyansk, a hotbed of unrest against Ukraine’s interim government.In Brussels, NATO announced it was immediately strengthening its military footprint along its eastern border — which often lies next to Russia — in response to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. The leaders of Russia and Germany, meanwhile, talked about the turmoil in Ukraine but came to very different conclusions, their offices said. Insurgents in Slovyansk have seized the police headquarters and the administration building, demanding broader autonomy for eastern Ukraine and closer ties with Russia. Their actions have been repeated in at least eight other cities in eastern Ukraine — and the central government says Moscow is fomenting the unrest.One of the Ukrainian soldiers said they had defected to the pro-Russian side — which raises the specter of an uprising led by disgruntled Ukrainian forces. But an AP journalist overheard another soldier suggesting they were forced at gunpoint to hand over the vehicles.last_img

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