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Home News Pro-Russian rebels claim fresh Ukraine assault

Pro-Russian rebels claim fresh Ukraine assault

Published on 01/06/2016

Ukraine's pro-Russian eastern insurgents on Wednesday accused Kiev's soldiers of launching a new blitz near a prized but long-obliterated airport in the separatists' de facto capital of Donetsk.

The claim appears to fit with a mounting death toll reported by the pro-Western leadership in Kiev and foreign monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

The insurgents seized the Donetsk airport at a heavy cost in January 2015.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko soon vowed to win back the key trophy of the 25-month war — a pledge that clashed with Washington’s efforts to bring peace to the European Union’s backyard.

A rebel fighter who identified himself by the nom de guerre Moskva (Moscow) said the Ukrainian assault began from positions just north of Donetsk last Saturday.

“The entire (airport) terminal was hit by air defence guns,” the insurgent told AFP.

These heavy weapons were meant to have been withdrawn from the frontline dividing rebel-run regions from the rest of Ukraine within days of the signing of a February 2015 truce.

That ceasefire helped contain the worst violence but failed to bring a halt to one of Europe’s bloodiest conflicts since the 1990s Balkans wars.

– Hundreds of blasts –

A man who identified himself as a Russian volunteer fighter, but who refused to give his name, said eight members of the separatist force had been killed in a town 10 kilometres (six miles) north of Donetsk since Monday.

Kiev has also reported losing about 20 soldiers in the past 10 days.

The OSCE said in a daily dispatch that its monitors recorded 305 “undetermined explosions” just north and west of Donetsk between late Monday and early Tuesday.

More than 9,300 civilians and fighters from both sides have died since the revolt against leaders who toppled Ukraine’s Russian-backed president broke out in April 2014.

Russia denies seizing the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and then plotting the separatist conflict in retaliation for seeing Ukraine pull out of its historic sphere of influence.

But Moscow admits that volunteer and off-duty soldiers were fighting alongside the insurgents.

Poroshenko’s military spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk confirmed the upsurge in fighting but blamed the militia command.

“The Ukrainian armed forces are observing a state of ceasefire,” Motuzyanyk told AFP.

The self-described Russian volunteer solider blamed the spike in violence on attempts by Poroshenko to revise the terms of last year’s truce deal.

The agreement was meant to offer separatist regions limited self-rule and the right to hold local elections — conditions opposed by numerous lawmakers and nationalist volunteer battalions who backed up government troops throughout the war.