International Hotspot: Eastern Ukraine on Edge of Civil War

Ukraine takes action against pro-Russian militia as paramilitary troops defect.
6:06 | 04/16/14

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Transcript for International Hotspot: Eastern Ukraine on Edge of Civil War
And. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- We presume going to take back what has been seized by pro Russian court. Taking on -- fighting to keep their homeland attack. International hot spot right now eastern Ukraine hello everyone I'm Michelle Franzen in New York tensions running high. As 40000 Russian troops amass on the border. And pro Russian protest breaking out in multiple cities throughout eastern and southern Ukraine. Forcing the Ukrainian prime minister to act and take back cities and military bases. Taken over by pro Russian militia ABC's Alex Marquardt is and slow these aunts and has the report. The latest on the frontlines. This. Operation is still in its early stages trying to take back what has been seized by pro Russian forces including this town where we are. We've already seen defections by Ukrainian troops like these ones as fears grow that Russell respond to this crack down. By launching an invasion. On the moved Ukraine's military deploying its forces for what's being called an anti terrorist operation. To -- the violent unrest that has swept eastern Ukraine. But there are already -- this operation is falling apart this group of tanks and armored personnel carriers have defected along with a unit of elite soldiers they've driven here into this town occupied by pro Russian forces. And raise the Russian flag. President who. Newton is now warning Ukraine that a bloody crackdown on protesters will start a civil war a threat that has ignited talk of a new Cold War between Russia and the US. The White House now accuses -- of supporting and even coordinating its violent uprising. With each passing day this country is falling deeper and deeper into chaos splitting apart. Before our eyes both sides taking up arms in -- country to the brink of all out war. Alex mark -- are reporting and we're joined now by ABC's -- -- and Moscow for the war on these latest developments secure accurate. The Ukrainian prime minister now vowing to reclaim -- to. Spots. As you can imagine they're not too thrilled about this idea they -- claiming that this is paving the way. For a civil war and really particularly ominous terms coming from the Kremlin because. Russia has said for the longest time that it reserves the right to go to protect Russian speakers in Ukraine and this kind of -- -- could give exactly that pretax and. -- an idea how close is this becoming a full blown conflict now we've also heard reports that. -- Putin has called German leader Angela Merkel. Right well this is something that is very -- right now it's really really tense. But did the big questions you're asking is whether Iran will become a full full blown public and that remains to be seen. What we've seen actually since -- file that report. Is that those troops that were thought to have been defecting earlier in fact -- Arab world were forced to give up their armored personnel carriers by those are pro Russian militias. Those forces have actually retreated now deep into the Ukrainian forces it's -- stunning defeat really embarrassing to Ukraine's we're trying to losses offensive retake those. Those those -- and have been occupied by the pro Russian malicious. The big question now is what happens ukrainians. Do they try to regroup and go in again and it got diplomatic meetings tomorrow maybe he tried for some sort of diplomatic solution to this. I think this will start getting -- look at clearer and about forty. Our -- here were also in some video here pictures of tanks with Russian flags on them descending on the cities in eastern Ukraine that -- Spain around these Russian troops. Are these the Ukrainian troops that have defected or been forced to turn over their tanks. Right well this is the US hadn't and several western countries of alleged for a long time that Russian troops are behind this -- -- behind the scenes. There's no evidence of them specifically being taking any sort of public presence of the -- is human BC. Draw -- big -- right there. Actually the pro Russian militias a lot of them are ex military or ex special forces or or or or riot police that kind of thing. And some of the troops that came in with them -- -- -- ones who work. In essence taken hostage. Then let go. And give -- the lay of the land now compare the other eastern cities in Ukraine to Crimea is support for Russia there -- strong as it wasn't Crimea. If that's really great question because it is very different you -- in -- he was always is sort of autonomous region. It had over 50% of the population with ethnically Russian. And there was a lot longer historical ties to Russia you don't really have called on the same scale and eastern Ukraine. That was always -- stronghold for the pro Russian president 30% of the population is ethnic Russian. But still -- a majority. And even -- -- that population. Did not all of them want to become part of -- some of them just want to remain part of Ukraine but still have. Guarantees. That their rights to speak Russian the Russian language will be preserved. So not quite the same dynamic is in Crimea. But still you start to see the way -- -- the Kremlin has been trying to at least according to western accusations. I tried to whip up tensions there to at least destabilized situation. And again the big question now what is NATO's response and how -- -- fit into all of this. Right well this is another big question here because they said for the longest time that they're not planning on sending troops into Ukraine but they did say. I just again today that they're planning on beefing up security. Along their eastern border of the borders. The countries that border. Roster that includes a lot of -- Lithuania Estonia and even countries like Poland that it felt very threatened. -- what's going on crack. ABC's cured rowdy at a Moscow thank you for joining us. You can keep up with the story in real time by downloading the ABC news -- and star in this story forks was updates on the go. Now I'm Michelle Franzen in New York.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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