Ukraine rebel commander threatens attacks on checkpoints

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 May, 2014, 9:02pm
UPDATED : Friday, 16 May, 2014, 12:59am

A senior rebel commander in Ukraine's separatist eastern region has threatened an onslaught on Ukrainian military checkpoints if they are not withdrawn immediately, according to a video posted on the Facebook page of a rebel politician.

Sergei Zdrilyuk, dressed in military fatigues, warned he had covert groups already in place. "I am ready to draw the first blood myself," he said.

In the 30-minute video, he moved from military strategy and strengths to problems with a rival fighting unit and even troubles with his mother's flock of geese.

The eastern rebellion by pro-Russian separatists has shaken Ukraine and pushed Western powers into a cold war-style confrontation with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Zdrilyuk introduced himself as deputy to Igor Strelkov, appointed head of rebel forces on Monday after the southeastern region of Donetsk held an unofficial referendum that rebels said gave 80 per cent support for a break with Kiev. Both are regarded as terrorists by Kiev.

He said Strelkov, whom Kiev identifies as a Russian military intelligence officer, commanded a force of 10,000 fighters and 1,000 armoured vehicles. The commander had moved from his stronghold of Slaviansk to the town of Donetsk.