News / Europe

    Rebels in Eastern Ukraine Take Government Border Posts

    A pro-Russian rebel carries items seized from an Ukrainian border troops military unit in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, June 4, 2014.
    A pro-Russian rebel carries items seized from an Ukrainian border troops military unit in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, June 4, 2014.
    VOA News
    Ukraine struggled late Wednesday to regain control of key sections of its border with Russia, after pro-Russian separatists overran a military headquarters in an hours-long battle. A second border post in the eastern city of Luhansk also fell to rebels.

    A Ukrainian border guard statement confirmed a retreat from its internal security base, but it said troops had partially redeployed and were "carrying out their tasks." The National Guard said six militants were killed and three Ukrainian troops were wounded in the fighting.

    Witnesses, including Western reporters, said Ukrainian forces abandoned the Luhansk base after running out of ammunition. The Associated Press quoted a rebel spokesman as saying the overpowered Ukrainian troops were allowed to flee the nearby border checkpoint.

    It also said pro-Russian militia were later seen driving away in the border guards' vehicles.

    But also during the last 24 hours, a spokesman for Kyiv’s “anti-terrorist operation” claimed Ukrainian government forces killed more than 300 separatist fighters and wounded at least 500 amid heavy fighting in and around Slovyansk.

    Government troops used aircraft, helicopters and artillery against rebels who have controlled the area since April, spokesman Vladyslav Seleznyov said.

    Separatists disputed the casualty count.

    “Losses to the Ukrainian side were greater than ours,'' Aleksandr Boroday, “prime minister” of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, was quoted by Interfax as saying.

    Seleznyov said two Ukrainian servicemen had been killed and 45 wounded. The numbers could not be independently confirmed.

    Ukraine’s government says the unrest in the country’s east is being instigated and fomented by Russia in response to Kyiv’s turn toward the West.

    Recently intensified operations against rebels were ordered by Ukrainian President-elect Petro Poroshenko who, with close to 55 percent of the vote, won a resounding victory in elections May 25.

    Possible Putin meeting

    Poroshenko said Wednesday he may meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin to address tensions between the two countries when the two leaders will be in France later this week.

    “As things stand now, a meeting between me and Putin is not envisaged, but I do not rule out that it could take place in one format or another,” Poroshenko told a news conference in Warsaw after meeting with President Barack Obama and European leaders.

    World leaders, including Poroshenko and Putin, will converge on Normandy, France, Friday for a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the allied D-Day invasion against Nazi forces in World War II.

    Poroshenko said that he was working on a plan to address tensions in eastern Ukraine through a de-centralization of power, a broad amnesty, and elections for local government.

    He said he discussed his plan with U.S. and European leaders in Warsaw and that talks on the issue would continue in France.

    Poroshenko will formally assume the presidency in Ukraine following his inauguration on June 7.
     
    • A Ukrainian soldier prepares mines during a battle with pro-Russian separatist fighters, Slovyansk, June 6, 2014. 
    • Ukrainian soldiers take their position during a battle with pro-Russian separatist fighters at Slovyansk, June 6, 2014. 
    • Ukrainian servicemen stand guard at a checkpoint near the town of Amvrosievka, in Donetsk region, Ukraine, June 5, 2014.
    • Ukrainian servicemen stand guard at a checkpoint near the town of Amvrosievka, in Donetsk region, Ukraine, June 5, 2014.
    • People hold a combined Ukrainian-Crimean flag during a pro-Ukrainian rally in front of the parliament building in Kyiv, June 5, 2014.
    • An elderly woman gives flowers to Kyiv mayor Vitaly Klitschko, chairman of the Ukrainian party Udar (Punch) during a rally near the city council in Kyiv, June 5, 2014.
    • Pro-Russian armed men walk in an entrance to a border guard base, which they seized, on the outskirts of Luhansk, Ukraine, June 4, 2014.
    • A pro-Russian rebel carries items seized from a Ukrainian border troops military unit in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, June 4, 2014.
    • Ukrainian soldiers and a doctor carry a wounded soldier to a hospital in Izyum, near Slovyansk, Ukraine, June 3, 2014.
    • Damaged buildings are seen at a Ukrainian border guard camp, after what local residents say was an attack by pro-Russian separatists, on the outskirts of the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk June 3, 2014.
    • A Ukrainian border post is seen through bullet holes in a truck's windscreen on the outskirts of the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk, June 3, 2014.

    Breedlove to Russia:  'Stop'

    Reiterating accusations that Russia has a hand in the separatist unrest in eastern Ukraine, NATO's top military commander called on Moscow Wednesday to stop destabilizing the country through the use of Russian-backed forces.

    "Russia is continuing to destabilize Ukraine… Russian irregular forces, Russian-backed forces, and Russian financing are very active in eastern Ukraine. This has to stop,'' U.S. General Philip Breedlove, NATO's supreme allied commander Europe told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels.

    Breedlove said that Russia’s influence in the events in eastern Ukraine is “very clear,” and called Moscow’s effort “very well-led, very well-financed [and] very well-organized."

    Commenting on Russia’s continued troop presence on its border with Ukraine - previously estimated by NATO at 40,000 - Breedlove said that despite Moscow’s pledged withdrawal, several large formations remain and appear not to have reduced their presence in any way.

    Moscow denies involvement in eastern Ukraine.

    US security assistance

    The United States has offered Ukraine an additional $5 million in non-lethal assistance to help the country's military forces in their effort to battle pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
    U.S. Security Assistance to Ukraine
     
    • More than $23 million in additional defensive security assistance since March
    • $5 million for body armor, night vision goggles and communications equipment
    • 300,000 meals ready to eat
    • Allocated funding to supply Ukraine's State Border Guard Service with non-lethal and communications equipment
    • Senior U.S. defense officials have met with Ukrainian counterparts to discuss cooperation and support

    Source: White House


    President Barack Obama announced the package for the purchase of body armor, night vision goggles and communications equipment Wednesday as he met with Ukrainian President-elect Petro Poroshenko in Warsaw, Poland.

    “The United States is working to bolster Ukraine’s ability to secure its borders and preserve its territorial integrity and sovereignty in the face of Russian occupation of Crimea and a concerted effort by Russian-backed separatists to destabilize eastern Ukraine,” the White House said in a statement.

    Obama has approved more than $23 million in additional defensive security assistance for Ukraine since early March, the release said.

    It also announced that earlier this month senior U.S. defense officials met with their Ukrainian counterparts in Kyiv to discuss ongoing U.S.-Ukraine defense cooperation and U.S. support for Ukraine’s defense reform efforts.

    Putin: No annexation plans

    Russia's president says he has no plans to "annex or destabilize" southeastern Ukraine, as European leaders called for him to use his influence with pro-Russian separatists to help end their rebellion against the government in Kyiv.

    “No, we have never engaged and are not engaged in this,” Vladimir Putin said in an interview Wednesday with France's TF1 television channel and Europe 1 radio station.
     
    He also rejected speculation that there are Russian military units or military instructors present in southeastern Ukraine.
     
    He said Ukraine's government must "establish a dialogue with its own people, and not with weapons, tanks, planes, but with the help of a negotiating process."
     
    Also Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Russia could face further sanctions if it does not cooperate in helping stem violence in eastern Ukraine.
     
    She told German lawmakers Russia is failing to stop weapons and fighters from crossing its borders into eastern Ukraine, and that Berlin will not shy away from imposing more sanctions on Russia if this continues.

    Ukraine rejects Russia’s UN move

    Countering Moscow’s push for a U.N. Security Council resolution to establish a humanitarian corridor to provide aid to the populations affected by the unrest in eastern Ukraine, Kyiv’s U.N. envoy dismissed the initiative as “politically motivated.”

    “The resolution is drafted by a country who just recently annexed a big part of our territory and is supporting the separatists in the east,” Yuriy Sergeyev said Wednesday referring to Russia’s seizure of Crimea and unrest in eastern regions of Ukraine Kyiv and the West believe is being orchestrated by Russia.

    “The resolution is politically motivated,” Sergeyev said.

    Quoting unnamed officials, Ukrainian media reported Kyiv sees Moscow’s initiative as a veiled effort to get additional supplies to rebels on the ground in eastern Ukraine.

    The U.S. called the Russian U.N. proposal hypocritical saying that it came at the same time as armed fighters and weapons were entering Ukraine from Russia.
     
    Western council members have said a report would be needed from the U.N. on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine before the Russian draft resolution could be considered properly.

    VOA's Jonas Bernstein contributed to this report; some information provided by Reuters.
     

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments page of 2
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    by: meanbill from: USA
    June 04, 2014 9:37 PM
    TRUTH BE TOLD -- It really looks like the US, neo-Nazi, and ultra-right wing Right Sector coup leaders want this Ukraine war to continue at all costs -- (and they just don't want to talk or negotiate on any settlement with anybody) -- no matter what the people want?

    IF ONLY the US, EU, and NATO hadn't interfered and backed the Ukraine ultra-right-wing extremists in ousting Yanukovych and seizing the government by force -- (none of this would have happened) -- and Ukraine would still be united and getting ready for free elections? -- (WHY?) -- Why did they interfere, and why did the Ukrainians let them interfere?)... WHY?
    In Response

    by: Vovan from: Ukraine
    June 05, 2014 9:38 AM
    "meanbill from: USA" is an impudent liar! He is an ordinary troll! Putin's propagandist!
    Those, who he names "people" are the Russian hired killers, marauders and robbers! Locals already hate them not less than habitants of all Ukraine on the whole!

    by: gen from: Japan
    June 04, 2014 9:11 AM
    This is econmic stimulus plan for US econmy.So clever!

    by: Al Neuman from: United States
    June 04, 2014 9:07 AM
    Famous American 'separatists': Nathan Hale, George Washington, Ethan Allen, Thomas Paine, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, John Hancock, Ben Franklin, John Paul Jones, Crispus Attucks.

    by: gen from: Japan
    June 04, 2014 7:11 AM
    Mr Obama seems to want getting the popularity from the domostic military and war-like voters. He give much more oil on the fire in the eastern part of Ukraine.This is the very way of US.The other people lives are sacrificed by the the strategy of the election.I don't believe this.So called ″Ukraine's antiterrorists operation″ is sure to damage on not only the separatists but also the innocent people,normal citizens.US tax money use to kill the innocent citizens.Terrible.

    by: Mark from: Virginia
    June 04, 2014 6:57 AM
    More money being given away by a country that cannot afford it. Why is it when the Obama administration talks of money, the end is always pronounced '-illion'... million, trillion, billion. Always neat, even numbers ending in something-illion.

    No wonder the recipient leader(s) always have a smile on their faces, its free money to them, at the expense of American taxpayers who have no say at all what their government is doing with their hard earned dollars. And Congress, who have more money than anyone rightfully needs in one lifetime, is approving these amounts. Of course they are, its not THEIR money, out of their pockets, that is being spent, but out of the pockets and paychecks of those who trustingly elected these fools to their comfortable and high paying jobs.

    Money that could be better spent educating children (who will one day have to take over the mantle of leadership from those who've made such a mess of things), feeding and housing the poor, strengthening the borders of our own country from an invasion of illegal immigrants... the list is long on what America needs that money for. Yet, we support other countries with little or no accountability on what those other countries will spend that money on, throwing good money after bad, while our own people have to scratch and claw for daily survival because there is no money or resources available to help them.

    How many families in this country are facing foreclosure? How many children go to bed hungry every day? How many senior citizens have to choose whether to eat today or take their medication? While millions/billions/trillions are being spent and directed overseas..... Shameful.

    by: Cayman
    June 04, 2014 6:15 AM
    I think this is only official information, because one day of war agains pro-Russian Ukraine citizens cost 3 million $!!!! And this money goes on killing civilians. For examples for last couple days they were bombing kindergarden and hospitals!

    by: Igor from: Russia
    June 04, 2014 5:01 AM
    How ironic it is that the Westen media which always considers itself "the trusted source" of information is turning the blind eye to the plight of civilians in Eastern Ukraine where Petro Poroshenko is using air fighters, military helicopters, tanks, missiles arbitrarily against them. Many innocent people have died from those attacks. But the Western media has mentioned nothing which will put Petro Poroshenko in disadvantagious positions. Mr. Obama continues his support for those in Kiev without paying attention to any crime made by them. The culpritsof Odessa mass killing will never come to light because those in Kiev and the West will try their best to protect them.
    In Response

    by: John from: Russia
    June 04, 2014 6:35 AM
    The civilians were killed by the rebels. The missile originated in the wooded area next to the administration building. It was not an air-to-surface missile as our government wants us to believe.

    by: Anonymous
    June 04, 2014 3:37 AM
    SAVE DONBASS PEOPLE

    by: Bobbitsky from: Donetsk, Ukraine
    June 04, 2014 2:45 AM
    Perhaps the President should review some of the graphic imagery coming from Eastern Ukraine... such as civilians being bombed with cluster bombs, people shot in hospital beds, maimed women dying on the sidewalk while the Ukrainian soldiers are gloating.. Because Ukraine is well on its way to trial for crimes against humanity and you may have supported the coup, but I don't think you want to put the "Made in USA" sticker on that.

    by: greatukr from: RF
    June 04, 2014 2:02 AM
    "Obama urged Russia on Tuesday to help prevent the flow of weapons to separatists in eastern Ukraine and use its influence to get the militants there to support peace."
    The strength and the influence of Obama not to stop the killing of civilians in the East of Ukraine?
    Comments page of 2
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