One of the armored columns stopped when a crowd of men drinking beer and women yelling taunts and insults gathered on the road before them, and later in the day its commander agreed to hand over the soldiers’ assault rifles to the very separatists they were sent to fight. Another column from the same ostensibly elite unit, the 25th Dnipropetrovsk paratrooper brigade, surrendered not only its weapons but also the tracked and armored vehicles it had arrived in, letting militants park them as trophies, under a Russian flag, in a central square here.
In a tactical error, the Ukrainian soldiers on Wednesday had no accompanying force to control the crowds that formed around their advancing units. Their task, to confront …. civilians, would be extremely difficult for any conventional army, but for this group, which apparently lacked the tools and the heart to carry it out, it proved to be impossible.
Just placing the conventional army forces near this darker, more insidious mix of unconventional tactics risked such a setback. “You are fulfilling criminal orders,” one local resident yelled at a Ukrainian soldier sitting on an armored vehicle. The soldier said he was not, and showed that he had removed the magazine from his assault rifle. “You are saying ‘Come over to the side of the people,’ “ he said. “I am a soldier. I protect the people. I won’t shoot you.”
In Kiev, the Ministry of Defense initially denied that the armored vehicles had been captured.