Accessibility links

Report: 30-35 Separatists Dead in Fighting in East Ukraine

  • VOA News

Ukrainian presidential candidate Petro Poroshenko talks, during a press conference, in Kiev, Ukraine, Monday, May 26, 2014

Ukrainian presidential candidate Petro Poroshenko talks, during a press conference, in Kiev, Ukraine, Monday, May 26, 2014

A pro-Russian rebel said on Tuesday he believed about 30 to 35 separatists had been killed so far in nearly 24 hours of fighting with Ukrainian forces in Ukraine's eastern city of Donetsk.

The rebel, who was in his 30s and gave no name, spoke to Reuters as he and about a dozen fellow fighters drove off from a morgue near the center of Donetsk, where the separatists have been battling Ukrainian forces after seizing the city's international airport on Monday.

It was the first indication of a death toll on either side in the latest bout of violence, which erupted a day after Ukrainians voted for a new president in an election which the separatists managed to block in much of the Donetsk region.

Earlier, Ukraine's likely president-elect Petro Poroshenko says there will be no talks with "terrorists" - his word for the armed pro-Russian separatists in the east.

Unofficial results show billionaire candy maker Poroshenko winning Ukraine's presidential election by a landslide

Poroshenko said Monday that peace can be reached thorough a dialogue with those he calls people, and that only weapons can be used when dealing with what he calls killers.

He also said he wants to open talks with Moscow, which pleases Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who says the chance for a dialogue with Ukraine cannot be wasted.

Related video report by VOA's Patrick Wells:
A Ukrainian rebel leader in Donetsk said he also is ready to talk with Poroshenko, but only if the talks concern a prisoner swap and pulling Ukrainian forces out of the east.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the large voter turnout shows the Ukrainian people want to live in a democracy anchored in Europe.

In the capital Kyiv, Poroshenko, said Monday he hoped to meet Russia's leaders in the first half of June and that restoring stability in eastern regions of his country would require Moscow's involvement.

Poroshenko also said he would use all legal means to secure the return to Ukraine of the Crimea region, annexed by Russia in March.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday that Russia respects the choice of the Ukrainian people and is ready for dialogue with Poroshenko.

He added, however, that he doubted that any "mediators" would be needed for talks with Ukraine's new leadership.

A leader of the rebel Donetsk People's Republic, Denis Pushilin, said Monday that the separatists are ready for a "dialogue" with Poroshenko, but only concerning exchanging prisoners and withdrawing government troops from eastern Ukraine, and only if Russia mediates the talks.

Election results

Ukraine's election commission reported Poroshenko had earned about 54 percent of the vote in Sunday's election with ballots counted from more than half of the country's precincts.

Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was in second place with 13 percent.

Poroshenko, a billionaire candy maker and former foreign minister, claimed victory Sunday without needing a runoff vote, and said he was ready to negotiate with Russian officials.

"I really hope that the current election which was really free, really fair, the level of the activity of Ukrainian people and Ukrainian voters clearly demonstrate that Ukraine are decisive in building up their future," Poroshenko said. "And I think that Russia is our neighbor, and without Russia it would be much less effective or almost impossible to speak about the security in the whole region or maybe about the global security."

US, German reaction

U.S. President Barack Obama congratulated the Ukrainian people for making their voices heard over the violence and provocations. He said Ukrainians have repeatedly shown their desire to choose their own leaders and live in a democracy.

Secretary of State John Kerry said that the large turnout in Sunday's vote indicates that the Ukrainian people want to live in a democratic country anchored in what he called "European institutions."

In a statement Monday, Kerry praised the "courage" and "determination" of voters in parts of eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists prevented most voting from taking place.

Kerry said the United States respects Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and he condemned Russia's "occupation and attempted annexation" of Crimea. He said the United States is committed to working with Ukraine and other partners to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

Sunday's election was the climax of sometimes violent anti-government protests that started last year and drove pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych from power. It also led to a Russian takeover of Crimea - a mostly Russian-speaking Ukrainian peninsula.

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday welcomed the preliminary results in Ukraine's election showing Poroshenko could win enough support to avert a run-off election, though she said that could only be confirmed when full results are in.

“We can only comment on the result when we have the final result of the election,'' Merkel said. “But if there is a decision for Mr. Poroshenko in the first round, that would certainly be good news.”

Merkel said she hoped that first step would lead to a constitutional process in Ukraine and parliamentary elections. She vowed Germany would help accompany that, if desired, and hoped the European Union can help resolve a gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine this week.

“The talks about gas prices [for Ukraine] are very important for us,” said Merkel. “I hope it will be possible to get an agreement this week. It's very, very important.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has promised to recognize the outcome of the election, despite expressing misgivings about its legitimacy. He also said he hopes Ukraine's new president will end military operations against separatists in the east.
Error rendering storify.

Some information in this report was contributed by Reuters.

Show comments

XS
SM
MD
LG