UK & World News

  • 27 May 2014, 16:03

Ukraine: '50 Insurgents Killed In Donetsk'

Ukrainian forces claim to have retaken the airport in the eastern city of Donetsk amid fierce fighting which rebels say left more than 50 of their fighters dead.

Plumes of black smoke could be seen rising from Sergei Prokofiev International Airport after Ukraine fighter jets and helicopter gunships unleashed air strikes on insurgents who took control of an airport terminal.

Members of the public were urged to stay indoors following reports the fighting had spread to residential areas of the city.

The road to the airport bore signs of the heavy fighting, strewn with blood-spattered and bullet-riddled trucks of the kind used by the separatist rebels.

And heavy machine gun fire could still be heard on Tuesday morning amid signs of continuing resistance.

Speaking in the capital Kiev, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said: "The airport is completely under control. The adversary suffered heavy losses. We have no losses."

Fighting has also been reported in Mariupol, Biryukovo, and Slovyansk, with further rebel losses claimed.

First Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Yarema said: "We'll continue the anti-terrorist operation until not a single terrorist remains on the territory of Ukraine."

The prime minister of the rebels' self-styled Donetsk People's Republic (DNR), Alexander Borodai, is reported as saying: "We have lost more than 50 volunteers."

The government assault, considered the most forceful action so far taken by Kiev against pro-Russian rebels, came just hours after Ukrainian billionaire Petro Poroshenko claimed victory in the country's presidential elections.

Mr Poroshenko has rejected any talks with "terrorists" and promised a robust campaign to end the pro-Russian insurgency in the east, which has seen rebels seize government offices and clash with Ukrainian troops.

"The anti-terrorist operation cannot and should not last two or three months," he said. "It should and will last hours."

It is too early to say if the military crackdown will defeat the rebellion in Donetsk, where a hockey stadium was set on fire on Tuesday.

Sky News Foreign Affairs Editor Sam Kiley said the military action was a significant increase in the level of violence being applied by the Ukraine government.

He said: "Clearly, Kiev has decided to exercise its prerogative in trying to stamp out this insurgency which has been growing rapidly in the last two weeks.

"The issue will be whether the Kremlin will order Russian troops across the border. All the signs are the Russians will not do that. They're stepping back to try and talk to the Kiev government."

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for a halt to Ukraine's military operation, and urged peace talks between Kiev and rebel leaders.

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