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Is Eastern Ukraine Already In Putin’s Grasp?
By Harold Hutchison

The mayor of the eastern Ukrainian city of Slovyansk is reportedly being held hostage after vanishing. This comes as pro-Russian gunmen are solidifying their hold over the Ukrainian oblast of Donestk.

According to a report from Breitbart News, Nelya Shtepa, who was known for flamboyant outfits, initially supported the efforts of the gunmen. She later recanted after the Ukrainian government began its “anti-terror” operations last week, claiming to have only been trying to secure the release of other hostages. She then vanished, with reports claiming she had been abducted after a meeting with Vyacheslav Ponomarev. She re-surfaced five days later, again praising the insurgents during a TV appearance. Ponomarev now claims to be the mayor of Slovyansk.

The mayoral drama comes as the situation in Donetsk has become much more tense. Pro-Russian militias have been consolidating control over the oblast, setting up barricades and using women and children as human shields. FoxNews.com reported that in addition to Slovyansk, the pro-Russian gunmen have also taken control of the larger city of Kramotorsk.

Adding to the tensions has been the discovery of the bodies of two other hostages, one of whom was a Slovyansk city council member. Acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov ordered a new “anti-terror” operation, claiming the two hostages had been tortured before they were killed. Over the last week, there were exchanges of fire, including a shootout in Mariupol. Another shootout took place at a checkpoint manned by Russian militia.

The crisis in the Ukraine started when Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign trade deals with the EU, instead choosing an aid package from Russia. After weeks of protests, Yanukovych was forced out of power.