Our ABC team was on the ground in Mariupol. We’d gotten word that shots had been fired around a police station.
When we arrived, a crowd of around seventy five people – all civilians – had gathered at the main gates of the police compound.
On the other side of a thin, wiry fence were a handful of heavily armed, Ukrainian gunmen – loyal to the government in Kiev. They didn’t have any insignias identifying their rank or which division of the armed forces they belonged to. They wore masks. They had AK-47’s and assault rifles. And clearly, they were on edge.
The crowd was seething with anger, shouting at the gunmen to release the detainees inside. One man tried forcing open the gate, but was pushed back. Many were shouting “Fascists, fascists” – a common slur heard around these parts, directed at those who support the new government in Kiev.
We’ve seen this action play out before. We knew it was only a matter of time before the mob stormed the police station. We knew it. And so did the gunmen.
And they didn’t wait for it to happen.
The first burst of gunfire happened quickly. In the middle of an interview, right at the main gate, the firing began. Not the tiny “pop pop” you hear from smaller side arms. These were assault rifles.