Ukraine's police and security forces were "helpless" to quell the unrest in two eastern regions bordering Russia and in some cases are co-operating with the pro-Russia gunmen who have seized scores of buildings and taken people hostage, Ukraine's leader said yesterday.
Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov said his government's goal now was to prevent the agitation from spreading to other territories in the sprawling nation of 46 million people.
His interim government in Kiev and Western governments have accused Moscow of orchestrating the turmoil in eastern Ukraine, which borders Russia. Turchynov spoke hours after pro-Russia gunmen seized more administrative buildings in eastern Ukraine.
Kiev city authorities, meanwhile, announced unexpected middle-of-the-night security drills running from last night into today by the state guard service. At a meeting in Kiev, Turchynov laid out the central security challenge facing Ukraine, instructing the nation's regional governors to try to prevent the threat in the east from overtaking central and southern regions.
"I will be frank: Today, security forces are unable to quickly take the situation in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions under control," Turchynov said.
"The security bodies ... are unable to carry out their duties of protecting citizens. They are helpless in those matters."
He said "mercenaries and special units" were attacking eastern Ukraine. "That is why I am stressing our task is to stop the spread of the terrorist threat, first of all in the Kharkiv and Odessa regions," Turchynov was quoted as saying by Interfax.
Turchynov said the threat of a Russian invasion was real.