As the May 25 general election looms in Ukraine, pro-government forces are struggling to reassert control in parts of the country’s crisis-torn east.
The press service of Ukraine’s general prosecutor’s office has allegedly classified the self-declared People’s Republic of Donetsk and the People’s Republic of Luhansk as terrorist organizations, according to the Kyiv Post.
But in Donetsk, armed rebels have reportedly seized control of the National Guard headquarters.
Interfax agency has reported the arrest of a “commander of the so called ‘South-East Army’ in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, on Friday in fulfillment of an order by a Luhansk court.” Ukraine’s interior minister is said to have announced the arrest.
Detainee Oleksiy Relke was purportedly taken to Kyiv for questioning in connection with: subversive activities; complicity in a coup attempt; and owning illegal bank accounts abroad.
Meanwhile, pro-Russian separatists in Slovyansk built a new checkpoint following sporadic clashes with government security forces.
Positioned between separatist stronghold Kharkiv and the Russian border, the town has become a strategic city for pro-Russian insurgents.
But Kyiv has received some support from the east in the form of Ukraine’s richest man, multi-billionaire Rinat Akhmetov.
As pro-Russian rebels stormed public buildings across the steel and coal belt at the basis of his fortune, Akhmetov has issued repeated written statements in support of a united Ukraine.
He has avoided specifically condemning the pro-Russian separatists, although they have accused him of funding the protest movement in Donetsk.
Akhmetov denies the allegations.
He sent some of his 300,000-strong workforce out to assist police on the streets of Maryupol in the hope of putting an end to the unrest that followed the armed takeover of much of the area.