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Increased tension felt on the ground in Donetsk

May 4, 2014 at 5:52 PM EDT

HARI SREENIVASAN: For more about this growing international crisis we’re joined now via Skype by Peter Leonard of the Associated Press. He’s in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, one of the key sites of the pro-Russian uprising.

So, Peter, what’s the situation on the ground where you are?

PETER LEONARD: Well, the situation some hundred kilometers from here in Slavyansk, which is the center of the armed insurgency that the Ukrainian government forces have continued operations to try and expunge anti-government forces from there. In the meantime, however, in various cities and towns across eastern Ukraine including in Donetsk itself the seizures of government offices continues unabated.

Only today, for instance, in Donetsk, a crowd of several hundred people stormed a military prosecutor’s office. We’ve seen similar such actions taking place in Donetsk and other places over the last few days and weeks.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Are you seeing the Ukrainian army push back?

PETER LEONARD: Well, it’s sort of a game of cat and mouse in a way. Every time the Ukrainian army looks poised to make serious incursions into the center of the armed insurgency, it sort of seems to take a step back or just hold its positions. So, it’s very hard to be specific about any exact dynamic. At the moment, it’s in this sort of rather tense balance, I would say.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Do they look like they’re here for the long haul in any sort of — are they setting up any sort of bunkers or perimeters? I mean the Ukrainian army.

PETER LEONARD: Yes, well, the Ukrainian army so far seems to be focusing its efforts on creating a security (inaudible) around the town of Slavyansk, which is a town of about 100,000 people. And that (inaudible) seems to have held pretty tight.

What’s unclear is whether they intend to actually make incursions into the town itself and attempt to restore it to government control. That we just have no clear picture about.

HARI SREENIVASAN: And you said there’s increased tension. Are the people in your town, in Donetsk, feeling like war is imminent?

PETER LEONARD: I think war might be overstating it, but there’s definitely a sense of permanent unrest that just hangs very heavily in the air. It might be a little bit too early to speak of war as such, but there’s certainly the feeling of instability is doing nobody any good.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Peter Leonard of the Associated Press, joining us via Skype from Donetsk. Thank you so much.