Ruslan Onishchenko, commander of the Tornado Battalion, with other Tornado fighters in Lysychansk. The unit consists mostly of former convicts. Photo: Alexander Rychkov
Members of Ukraine’s Tornado battalion have locked themselves up at a base located in a school building in Severodonetsk, the Kiev-controlled part of the Lughansk region, and have threatened to use weapons against Ukraine’s Interior Ministry employees sent to pacify them, Ukraine’s Chief Military Prosecutor Anatoly Matios said on Thursday.
The Ukrainian military revolted after they had learnt that Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov was planning to disband the Tornado battalion, Matios said in an interview with the Ukrainskaya Pravda daily.
He added that Avakov had sent one of his deputies, the heads of the internal and public security departments as well as representatives of the National Guard to Severodonetsk to disarm the Tornado fighters.
According to Matios, there are 170 people on the base’s territory.
“Huge amounts of weapons and ammunition are stored at the base. The Tornado fighters have planted mines along the perimeter of the base and have installed firing points and automatic grenade launchers in certain places. They have practically blocked the approach to the base. They have threatened to shoot if any decisive actions against them are taken or if and investigator and operational teams make an attempt to approach the base,” Ukraine’s chief military prosecutor stressed.
” I believe that we are obliged to act in strict compliance with the law and immediately disarm this group that has disobeyed and is refusing to fulfill orders,” Matios said adding the Interior Ministry employees would have to return fire in case of an armed resistance.
He noted that a considerable part of the Tornado battalion was made of former convicts, many of whom have long criminal records.
Earlier, the Kyiv Post reported:
The commander and seven of his soldiers from the Interior Ministry’s Tornado volunteer battalion were arrested on June 17 in different cities amid what they allege is a conflict with their superior, Luhansk Oblast police chief Anatoly Naumenko, over smuggling.
Authorities accuse them of committing rape and torture, Deputy Prosecutor General Anatoly Matios said, adding that prosecutors had video footage of the alleged crimes.
The Luhansk-based Tornado servicemen, including their deputy commander Mykola Tsukur who wasn’t remanded in custody, accuse Naumenko of running a protection racket for smuggling cast iron from occupied territory and said that the arrest is linked to those accusations.
The Tornado battalion is partially made up of former convicts from Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. […]