Ukrainian troops try to prevent civilian casualties eastern Ukraine - Avakov
The forces used in the military operation in eastern Ukraine are not storming residential quarters and are trying to prevent civilian casualties, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said.
"We are not using anti-terrorist operation forces to storm residential quarters and they have the restriction on attacking places where civilian populations are located," Avakov told reporters at a checkpoint at the entrance to Sloviansk on Monday.
Avakov reiterated that this approach slows down the anti-terrorist operation. "We are tied down by the civilian population. Some people support us and some do not. It doesn't matter. The Ukrainian military can not shoot civilians," Avakov said.
He called on politicians and journalists not to speculate on the issue of the military operation. "When such a war is going on, I am asking everyone who is in the rear, not on the frontline, who wants to be smart and give advice: understand the real situation, our army has been destroyed methodically for the past few years, we don't have a normal army, we don't have the appropriate special forces. What is happening now is a combat shakedown, the first in the past few years. We are figuring out who is who: who imitates and who is really not afraid," the minister said.
"I am speaking to all politicians, journalists, and my colleagues in Kyiv and in the regions: it's a difficult situation, and we need to resolve it. Let's stop playing games with it. Everyone should do their job. I want to tell the entire Donetsk elite, the entire Luhansk elite, everyone who is in the east: don't think that someone will resolve your problem for you, some mythical people from the center. This problem should be resolved by us all," Avakov said.
Stepan Poltorak, commander of the Ukrainian National Guard, for his part, said the Ukrainian troops in eastern Ukraine "are dealing with a very well-organized and trained enemy, which is armed with grenade launchers, mortars, and machine-guns."
"It's very difficult to conduct operations in this area using the forces involved in the anti-terrorist operation because it is woody and the enemy is well-trained, well-armed, and well-equipped," Poltorak told reporters at the entrance to Sloviansk on Monday, adding that man-portable air defense systems, guns, and Dragunov sniper rifles are being used against Ukrainian troops.
"I can tell those who are saying that the operation is going slowly and badly: everyone should do their job. I am telling politicians and everyone else: don't try to seem smart, you need to help," Poltorak said.
When asked "How to help?" Poltorak said: "By providing at least moral support."
"At least fully equip the army with bullet-proof vests," Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, who was present at the conversation, said, adding that the Ukrainian army needs some 10,000 bullet-proof vests.
Speaking about the situation in Sloviansk, Poltorak said the self-defense forces "want to break from the city" and Ukrainian troops "have locked them in the center of the city."
"They are not letting us come closer. We have virtually blocked them in Sloviansk, the ring is narrowing, and therefore they are resisting. They are trying to tie us down to prevent us from expanding our influence to other populated areas, to Kramatorsk, Krasny Liman, etc.," Poltorak said.