UK & World News

  • 10 July 2014, 17:50

Ukrainian Forces Launch 'All-Out Attack'

Ukrainian forces have launched an "all-out attack" against rebels west of Donetsk, according to the country's interior ministry.

It said the assault was targeting "several parts of the front" near the city, as well as neighbouring Luhansk.

A team from the AFP news agency about 18 miles from Donetsk reported hearing the echoes of heavy artillery fire.

The Ukrainian military had recently warned of a "nasty surprise" for separatists holed up in the city of 900,000.

Government forces guarding Donetsk's airport said they had come under mortar fire on Thursday, but managed to fight off the attack.

Ukraine's military has recently gained the upper hand in the three-month-long conflict with pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country.

They scored a major victory at the weekend by retaking the rebel stronghold of Slavyansk, with many rebels reportedly fleeing from there to Dontesk.

The amount of rebel-held territory in the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk - which have declared independence from Kiev - has halved in the past two weeks.

Some residents of Donetsk fear a blockade of the city by government troops and warehouses have been stockpiling clothes and food.

More than 200 government troops and hundreds of rebels have been killed since the unrest began.

Three more Ukrainian soldiers died on Wednesday, said military spokesman Vladyslav Seleznyov.

One was killed when a convoy was ambushed near Luhansk and two others died when their personnel carrier was blown up by a landmine in the village of Chervona Zorya, near Donetsk.

Western powers have been ramping up the pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin to use his influence over the rebels.

In a phone call, France's President Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Mr Putin to "exert all necessary pressure" to make them negotiate, said an Elysee Palace statement.

They also asked him to take firm control of the country's border with Ukraine.

Kiev claims that Russia has been ignoring rebels crossing into Ukraine with fresh weapons and equipment.

Moscow denies it is supporting the separatists but the US and EU have put asset freezes and travel bans on people accused of helping them.

Eleven more names are due to be added to the list at the weekend, according to an EU official.

The crisis in Ukraine started in April after Russian took over Ukraine's Crimean peninsula after the overthrow of the country's Moscow-leaning president, Viktor Yanukovych.

Advertisement