KIEV, January 24. /TASS/. Ukraine’s Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak said on Saturday the Ukrainian army was building up its forces near Mariupol.
“Positions of the Ukrainian military near the city of Mariupol of the Donetsk region have been reinforced. The situation is under control. Measures are being taken to build up forces and weapons in order to enhance defence and protect civilians from shelling,” the ministry of defence said in a statement.
Earlier on Saturday, Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said National Guards units near Mariupol were being reinforced.
In the meantime, Alexander Zakharchenko, the head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) said on Saturday, DPR self-defence forces were not going to attack Mariupol. “No one is going to attack the city. We are not beasts as they in Kiev,” he said.
He said he ordered to open suppressing fire at the positions of the Ukrainian army east of Mariupol only after Kiev had tried to put the blame for erroneous shelling of living quarters on DPR militias.
“We have conducted no active combat operations near Mariupol until today. But now, after Kiev decided to place responsibility for erroneous fire from its Grads from Berdyanskogo on Mariupol’s living quarters, I ordered to suppress the positions of Ukrainian troops east of Mariupol,” he said.
Zakhrachenko said that the Ukrainian side had pulled in additional troops to Mariupol.
“Our positions near Novoazovsk are shelled round-the-clock from Grad multiple rocket systems and large-calibre artillery. Today, 28th Ukrainian brigade was reinforced by armoured vehicles,” he noted. “It is being done to force us swing our forces to Mariupol from the Donetsk airport in a bid to drive us out of it.”
The Kiev military, according to Zakharchenko, were simply hiding behind Mariupol residents. “They are our people in Mariupol, they are Donbass too. They have nothing to be afraid of,” he said.