December 18, 2014
Pro-Russians storm police station, free nearly 70 militants
Pro-Russian militants stormed a Ukrainian police station in Odessa on Sunday and freed nearly 70 fellow activists as the country's leaders lamented a police force they said was widely undermined by graft or collaboration with separatists.
"Russians won't abandon their own!" militants chanted as they smashed windows and broke down the gate at the compound, where comrades had been held since Friday's mayhem. Others shouted "Russia! Russia!" and "we will not forgive!"
Odessa police said 67 activists were allowed to walk free.
As rebellion simmered, questions were raised about the ability of the army as well as police to confront an uprising Kiev says is backed by Moscow and led in the field by Russian special forces - an accusation the Kremlin denies.
Police in the eastern port of Mariupol said pro-Russian rebels had tricked soldiers at a checkpoint into eating food laced with a sleeping potion. The soldiers were then bundled off along with their weapons, prompting long talks to free them.
Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk, speaking in Odessa on the western, Black Sea stretch of Ukraine's coast, accused Russia of engineering Friday's clashes there that led to the deaths of more than 40 pro-Russian activists in a blazing building. He was pointedly critical of the police.
Friday's clashes were the deadliest since Moscow-oriented president Viktor Yanukovich was forced to flee in February and pro-Russian militants launched uprisings in the industrial east. They also marked the first serious disorder beyond eastern areas since Yanukovich fell, heralding possible trouble for Kiev.
Outright civil war in Ukraine and the division of a country the size of France would have serious implications for countries around, not least for Russia and for NATO states bordering it.