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Poroshenko: Kyiv Must Hold Donetsk Airport

  • VOA News

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko, Dec. 2, 2014.

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko, Dec. 2, 2014.

Ukraine's president said Friday that the country's armed forces must not lose control of the airport in the eastern city of Donetsk.

President Petro Poroshenko presented awards to a group of "cyborgs," the name given to the soldiers and members of volunteer battalions who have fought at the Donetsk airport, the site of repeated clashes with Russia-backed separatists.

"I am sure that we are protecting all of Ukraine there," Poroshenko's website quoted him as saying during the meeting in Kyiv. He added he was sure that if the Donetsk airport was given up, "the enemy" would make to Kyiv and beyond, reaching as far as the western Ukrainian city of Lviv.

Poroshenko confirmed that six servicemen had been killed in eastern Ukrainian in the previous 24 hours. Military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said earlier Friday that 14 other servicemen had been wounded in the fighting.

Authorities in the rebel-controlled city of Donetsk reported Friday that one civilian was killed and another seriously injured in shelling there.

On Thursday, the presidential website quoted Poroshenko as saying that the country's military would halt fire on December 9, in a "Day of Silence."

The two sides signed a cease-fire agreement in Minsk, Belarus on September 5, but it has been broken repeatedly, with each side blaming the other for violations.

Russia's RIA Novosti news agency on Friday quoted Alexander Zakharchenko, head of the rebel Donetsk People's Republic, as saying the separatists were prepared to observe the "Day of Silence" but also could respond in kind to firing from the government side.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday accused the United States and some European countries of constantly trying to portray Russia as the culprit for the crisis in Ukraine. He also repeated Moscow's call for Kyiv to hold direct talks with the separatists.

Russia denies Ukrainian and Western accusations that it has sent troops and military equipment to support the rebels.

In remarks Thursday to a meeting in Basel, Switzerland of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry referred to "hundreds of Russian soldiers who fight and die" in Ukraine, alluding to what the U.S. says is proof of Moscow's direct involvement in the fighting.

Kerry and Lavrov spoke briefly Thursday in Basel about the situation in Ukraine. A senior State Department official who sat in on the discussion told reporters that Kerry urged Moscow to "return to serious discussions" for a ceasefire.

Some information for this report comes from Reuters.

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