News / Europe

    Airstrike in Eastern Ukraine Hits Apartment Building; 11 Dead

    Ukrainian soldiers look out from a tank at a position some 40 miles from the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, July 10, 2014.
    Ukrainian soldiers look out from a tank at a position some 40 miles from the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, July 10, 2014.
    VOA NewsAnita Powell

    An airstrike destroyed an apartment building in eastern Ukraine Tuesday, killing at least 11 people and triggering new accusations of direct Russian involvement in Ukraine's ongoing battle against pro-Russian rebels.

    Details surrounding the strike in the town of Sniznhe remained murky late Tuesday, hours after separatists blamed Ukraine's air force for the attack.

    Ukraine military spokesman Andriy Lysenko denied Ukrainian involvement, saying no military planes had flown in the east since Monday.  He said "the [Sniznhe] flight can only be described as a cynical provocation" - a thinly veiled accusation against Russia.  Kyiv also accuses the Russian military of downing a Ukrainian military transport plane Monday near Luhansk.  Moscow has not commented.

    Earlier Tuesday, as regional tensions soared, a top Ukrainian defense official said Kyiv has "absolute proof" that Russia was involved in downing the Ukrainian plane.  

    General Mykhaylo Koval - in comments to Ukrainian television - did not elaborate.  But he cited evidence of a new Russian troop buildup on the border, saying "Ukraine, as never before, is on the threshold of large-scale aggression by its northern neighbor."  

    People pose on July 14, 2014, standing on the wreckage of a Ukrainian AN-26 military transport plane after it was shot down by a missile, in the village of Davydo-Mykilske, east of Luhansk near the Russian border.People pose on July 14, 2014, standing on the wreckage of a Ukrainian AN-26 military transport plane after it was shot down by a missile, in the village of Davydo-Mykilske, east of Luhansk near the Russian border.
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    People pose on July 14, 2014, standing on the wreckage of a Ukrainian AN-26 military transport plane after it was shot down by a missile, in the village of Davydo-Mykilske, east of Luhansk near the Russian border.
    People pose on July 14, 2014, standing on the wreckage of a Ukrainian AN-26 military transport plane after it was shot down by a missile, in the village of Davydo-Mykilske, east of Luhansk near the Russian border.

    On Monday, NATO confirmed the Russian buildup.  A spokesman told VOA that 10,000 troops, including special forces, are marshaled in border areas, along with tanks, artillery and supply vehicles. That is about a tenfold increase in the past month.

    Fighting has surged in the east since the Ukrainian government refused to renew a unilateral cease-fire June 30. Since then, Ukrainian forces have driven the rebels out of several cities, including their main stronghold of Slovyansk.

    In a related development, Moscow invited diplomats from 18 countries to visit a Russian border town where it says cross-border Ukrainian shelling killed one person Sunday.

    Russia's Foreign Ministry described the shelling as "an aggressive act" that could have "irreversible consequences."  Ukraine denies involvement.

    The Russian daily Kommersant quoted an unnamed source Monday as saying the Kremlin is considering "pinpoint retaliatory strikes" against Ukraine in response to the shelling.  However, the office of President Vladimir Putin called such reports "nonsense."

    VOA's Anita Powell reports from Sumy region, Ukraine, along the Ukrainian-Russian border:

    Tensions Build at Remote Ukrainian Border Posti
    X
    Anita Powell
    July 15, 2014 9:10 PM
    Ukrainian officials are tightening security at the border with Russia, amid continued clashes with pro-Russian separatists. Even at places on the border far from the fighting, trenches have been dug and other preparations made to defend against a feared Russian onslaught. VOA’s Anita Powell recently visited one of these remote border posts and has this report.

    SUMY REGION - UKRAINE - Ukrainian officials are tightening security at the border with Russia, amid continued clashes with pro-Russian separatists.  Even at places on the border far from the fighting, trenches have been dug and other preparations made to defend against a feared Russian onslaught.   
     
    As Ukrainian troops continue to battle pro-Russian separatists, tensions are high along the nation’s 2,000-kilometer land border with Russia.

    Here, in a remote border post near the city of Sumy, cross-border traffic has slowed -- and trenches have been dug in preparation for an invasion. These four-meter wide ditches are meant to stop Russian tanks.
     
    This idyllic rural border post in northeastern Ukraine is far from the eastern flashpoints of Donetsk and Slovyansk.

     The head of the Yunakivka border post, Major Yuriy Mikhailyuk, says they’re not taking any chances after Russia violated Ukrainian airspace in June.
     
    “If you look on the left of the state border, 500 meters from the place where you’re filming, you’ll see the place where a Russian helicopter violated the airspace of Ukraine.  It flew about 2.5 kilometers and returned to Russia," said Mikhailyuk.
     
     In the town of Sumy, which has long had close ties to nearby Russian towns, regional governor Volodymyr Shulga says the government has taken several steps to keep its residents safe.

    “We’ve tightened the control of the law enforcement authorities and border forces.  Plus, we’ve excavated more than 25 kilometers of a four-meter by two-meter ditch on the border with the Russian Federation," said Shulga.
     
    Sumy's strongly nationalistic residents say they are on guard for any outbreak of pro-Russian separatist sympathies.

     
    Dmytro Lantushenko, who heads the region’s department of youth and sport, says the town’s pro-Ukrainian spirit will keep it safe.
     
    “I’m absolutely sure that we really don’t have any separatist sentiment in the Sumy region today. Moreover, the level of patriotism among youth and students runs high," said Lantushenko.

    At the border, business is slow. Cars and pedestrians used to cross over frequently.  Nowadays, the crossing is frequented only by the border guards.
     
    On a recent visit, though, tensions were evident.
     
    As VOA News began to film in the space between the border posts, this plume of smoke rose in front of the Russian post.

    That was the extent of the action at this sleepy border post during a recent visit.
     
    But as the smoke clouds billow, so too does Ukraine’s fears of its larger, better-armed neighbor.

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    Comments
         
    by: Fernando from: Italy
    July 16, 2014 4:36 AM
    ALL WE HAVE TO DO IS TO BREAK BACKBONE OF RUSSIA'S ECONOMY -STOP BUYING RUSSIA 'S GAS AND OIL. IF IT IS COME TRUE,RUSSIA WILL CEASE ITS ....

    by: meanbill from: USA
    July 15, 2014 9:48 PM
    DEADLY isn't it? ... When the Ukraine army can't find any pro-Russian separates to shoot or bomb, (because they're fighting a guerilla war), they shoot or bomb innocent civilians now, to boost the body count?

    PS; .. Ukraine better come to terms, or end the war before winter, because in sub-zero temperatures, the batteries fail in the tanks, armored vehicles, and trucks, and there isn't anything worse, than being in a tank, armored vehicle, or truck, with dead batteries.... because a dead battery, means you're in a steel coffin? ...... REALLY

    by: norussian from: Russia
    July 15, 2014 1:08 PM
    Russia must be stopped!
    In Response

    by: 1worldnow from: Earth
    July 16, 2014 2:28 AM
    And anyone else that gets involved in Ukraine's rebel crisis. The Russians, EU, and USA need to let these brave rebels stand up for what is right, and against what is wrong. But so far, both sides have proven just how wrong they are!!!! Just like Israel and Gaza. Everyone stay out of Ukraine's business. When they start violating human rights, just like they both have been, then the US and Russia needs to join together and stop the violations, regardless who is doing them. But Russia has already proven that they are supportive of all human rights violations against the Ukrainians, because they are helping to do them. the US has made demands to Poroshenko for cease-fires and obey rules of engagement. Putin has done nothing to the rebels except embolden them and supply them, without demanding they stop the violations.

    With all that being said, Russia IS the main reason this has escalated in the first place. All you Putin lovers who claim that Russia didn't have a hand in this: the rebels would still be doing nothing but complaining had it not been for RUSSIA supplying them with RUSSIAN WEAPONS to KILL UKRAINIANS in UKRAINE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    by: Gennady from: Russia, Volga Region
    July 15, 2014 12:22 PM
    Those generals of Ukraine Army are dreamers. Their “professional” claims that the outdated transport airplane AN-26 of 1969-1985 design was invinsible in XXI century and was shot down from Russian soil by some mystic and super-sophisticated rocket system make a laughing stock of themselves.
    What proof do they have but assumptions built on sand: the obsolete airplane can not be shot down 45 years after production in the year of 2014 because it can not be!!! Because it was an Ukrainian one.

    And the pilots of the archaic plane were faultless aces-eagles!!! So, they drew sensational conclusion, there was Moscow’s hand. However, the noisy representatives of Petro Poroshenko Administration have just one thought in their mind: to get more Americal military help, more millions of the American dollars and to draw all the West-European countries into their struggle to remain in power.

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