News / Europe

Explosions Echo in East Ukraine as Russia Slams EU Sanctions

Wreckage from Malaysia Airline MH17 near the Ukrainian village of Hrabovo, July 26, 2014. Nearly 300 people, 193 of them Dutch citizens, were killed when the plane was brought down in eastern Ukraine, where separatists are battling government forces.Wreckage from Malaysia Airline MH17 near the Ukrainian village of Hrabovo, July 26, 2014. Nearly 300 people, 193 of them Dutch citizens, were killed when the plane was brought down in eastern Ukraine, where separatists are battling government forces.
x
Wreckage from Malaysia Airline MH17 near the Ukrainian village of Hrabovo, July 26, 2014. Nearly 300 people, 193 of them Dutch citizens, were killed when the plane was brought down in eastern Ukraine, where separatists are battling government forces.
Wreckage from Malaysia Airline MH17 near the Ukrainian village of Hrabovo, July 26, 2014. Nearly 300 people, 193 of them Dutch citizens, were killed when the plane was brought down in eastern Ukraine, where separatists are battling government forces.
Mike Eckel

Fighting neared Donetsk Saturday, and explosions were heard within the rebel-controlled eastern city as the Ukrainian army pressed insurgents who have bolstered defenses after a string of defeats.

Russia, meanwhile, angrily criticized new sanctions imposed by the European Union following the downing of Malaysia Airline Flight 17, which crashed July 17 not far from Donetsk. U.S. and Ukrainian officials said a sophisticated Russian-supplied surface-to-air missile downed the plane, possibly fired by Russian-backed rebels.

Ukraine’s military have racked up a string of victories in recent weeks, forcing rebels to retreat to major population centers, including Luhansk and Donetsk, the largest city in the country’s southeast.

Troops retook Lysychansk, a strategically important city about 75 miles northwest of Luhansk, and on Saturday Ukrainian forces were outside Horlikva, just north of the regional center of Donetsk, according to Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine’s national security council.

Once they can take Horlivka, “the direct route is open for the forces of the anti-terrorist operation to the capital of the Donbass region ... the city of Donetsk,” Lysenko was quoted as saying. “The approaches to Donetsk are being blocked so that the terrorists do not get the chance to receive ammunition, reinforcements or equipment.”

U.S. officials have accused Russia of massing more troops on its border, and firing artillery into Ukraine in recent days, most likely in a bid to prevent Ukrainian troops from sealing the border and cutting off weapon supplies to rebels.

According to reports by Reuter, "the Red Cross recently made a confidential legal assessment that Ukraine is officially in a civil war, opening the door to possible war crimes prosecutions, including over the downing of Malaysia Airlines MH-17."

Russia's Foreign Ministry says the United States is among those responsible for the conflict in Ukraine because of its strong support of the Kyiv government. Russia accuses Washington of pushing Kyiv to repress Ukraine's Russian-speaking population. 

U.S. President Barack Obama says Russia has supplied heavy weapons and know-how to pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, and that it is likely the rebels used a missile to shoot down a Malaysia Airlines jet July 17 over eastern Ukraine.

Shelling was heard around Donetsk early Saturday. It was not immediately unclear what the damage or casualties were, but residents reported being awoken by heavy explosions.

"Last night was terrible. I was woken up at 3 a.m. by the explosions. The walls shook, the windows shook," Marina, who lives in a southern part of the city, told Reuters. "There was shooting all over the city. And it still goes on. Maybe it's a little quieter now, but it's all around."

Local officials said some buildings had been damaged, one by fire, and one woman was wounded.

In Western capitals, officials had hoped that the crash of Flight 17, the 298 victims killed and the sanctions imposed by the United States and European Union might signal a turning point in the four-month-old Russian-backed insurgency.

Instead, Moscow appears to have accelerated the supply of newer weapons and equipment across the border, and bolstered the size of forces in border regions, according to U.S. officials.

The U.S. Defense Department warned that "heavier caliber, more capable" Russian artillery systems have been seen moving closer to the Ukrainian border. The systems being moved are surface-to-surface systems for use in ground fighting, not surface-to-air systems, department spokesman Steve Warren told reporters Friday.

On Saturday, Britain's Foreign Office accused Russia of making "contradictory, mutually exclusive claims" in blaming Ukraine for the tragedy and said it was "highly likely" the separatists had brought the plane down with a Russian-supplied missile.

Two top German officials spoke out in favor of the new EU sanctions, which some member nations have criticized as being too weak.

"After the death of 300 innocent people in the MH17 crash and the disrespectful roaming around the crash site of marauding soldiers, the behavior of Russia leaves us no other choice," Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany told Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper in an interview published Saturday.

"We remain true to our course: cleverly calibrated and mutually agreed measures to raise the pressure and … a willingness to have serious talks with Russia," he was quoted as saying.

German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, meanwhile, told the Spiegel weekly in comments due to be published on Sunday that the sanctions should above all hit Russia's oligarchs, arguing that the country's political system rested on them.

"We must freeze their (bank) accounts in European capitals and deny them the ability to travel," Gabriel was quoted as saying.

Moscow Denounces New EU Sanctions

In Moscow Saturday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry denounced sanctions by the EU that imposed travel bans and asset freezes on 15 Russian officials including top security agency officials.

The EU is taking “a complete turn away from joint work with Russia on international and regional security, including the fight against the spread of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism (and) organized crime,” the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry also accused the United States of conducting “an unrelenting campaign of slander against Russia, ever more relying on open lies.”

“The United States continues to push Kyiv into the forceful repression of (Ukraine's) Russian-speaking population's discontent. There is one conclusion: the Obama administration has some responsibility both for the internal conflict in Ukraine and its severe consequences,” the ministry said in a separate statement.

The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, said Friday he believed the Russian military and its leaders were “probably somewhat reluctant participants” in the form of warfare being used in Ukraine.

Speaking at a security forum in the western state of Colorado, Dempsey also said he was concerned that a “rising tide of nationalism” in Russia may slip into other parts of Europe.

“My fear is actually, you know if I have a fear about this, it's that Putin may actually light a fire that he loses control of," he told the Aspen Security Forum. “In other words, you know; these ethnic enclaves, there's a rising tide of nationalism and nationalism can be a very dangerous instinct and impulse. There's a rising tide of nationalism in Europe right now that has been created by, in many ways, by these Russian activities that I find to be quite dangerous."

Efforts to repatriate the 298 victims of the crash continued Saturday, as two cargo planes flew 38 more coffins out of the nearby city of Kharkiv to a forensic center in the Netherlands for identification and investigation, the AP reported.

Some victims’ remains are believed to be still at the wreckage site, east of Donetsk, but investigators and rescuers have had limited access to the site due to security concerns.

Material from Reuters and The Associated Press was used in this report.

You May Like

Video In Ukraine's Nikishino, No House Untouched by Fighting

Ninety percent of homes in one small village were damaged or destroyed as government forces failed to stop a rebel advance More

Pakistan’s 'Last Self-Declared Jew' Attacked, Detained

Argument about the rights of non-Muslims in Pakistan allegedly results in mob beating well-known Jewish Pakistani More

Turkey Cracks Down on Political Dissent, Again

People daring to engage in political dissent ahead of upcoming general elections could find themselves in jail More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: shane from: aust
July 27, 2014 11:46 PM
General fears nationalism with in countries. Is this not the right of people to do so if they so wish. or is that the EU / US / UK are losing their ability to impose their own policy.

by: Onlooker from: Mordor
July 27, 2014 5:11 AM
Russia began the war in Ukraine against Europe . Who did not understand else?

by: Anonymous
July 27, 2014 12:58 AM
The world needs to slap Putins hands as hard as they can.
Cut all business ties, make him "Sit out" of economic development worldwide. Even his own people hate him, only ones that do like him fear him.

by: NoEvidence from: lkjkj
July 26, 2014 11:53 PM
I love how all the accusations in this article conclude with .. "USA officials said so". There's no proof, in fact, satellite images show that Russian troops are not even massed near their borders. This article makes it seem as everywhere were true. Yet, whenever Russia makes an accusation, you'll see straight away that this site boldly claims "but there is no evidence at all".

by: Peter Aretin from: Republic of Boulderia
July 26, 2014 6:59 PM
Who would have thought that if you dress a mob of goons in camo and arm them to the teeth bad things might happen?

I wonder if any of this has penetrated John McCain's dense cranium?

Nah.

by: Geronimo360 from: United States
July 26, 2014 4:55 PM
Larry you are about as Holy as a pile of pig **** and probably have less brain tissue than aforementioned pig ****.Wallow in the slop of your obvious ignorance...you are such a sad example of a human being,have a glor

by: Sunny Enwerem from: Lagos Nigeria
July 26, 2014 3:14 PM
On force and more sanctions can make Putin and goons slow down their course.

by: Rebecca from: Latvia
July 26, 2014 1:34 PM
In 21th century Nazism speaks Russian

by: Ed from: Idaho
July 26, 2014 11:31 AM
Maybe Ukraine should just allow a bit of the East for these rebels if they agree to peace. But for a good overview of the entire issue and Russia's interest in the whole thing see this well written article, a bit long but very factual and informative.
http://www.smh.com.au/world/vladimir-putins-circle-of-fear-20140725-zw393.html

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
In Their Own Words: Citizens of Kobanii
X
Mahmoud Bali
March 06, 2015 8:43 PM
Civilians are slowly returning to Kobani, after Kurdish fighters backed by coalition airstrikes fought off a four-month siege of the northern Syrian town by Islamic State militants. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Mahmoud Bali talked to some of those who have returned. We hear about the devastation of Kobani through their own words.
Video

Video In Their Own Words: Citizens of Kobani

Civilians are slowly returning to Kobani, after Kurdish fighters backed by coalition airstrikes fought off a four-month siege of the northern Syrian town by Islamic State militants. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Mahmoud Bali talked to some of those who have returned. We hear about the devastation of Kobani through their own words.
Video

Video In Ukraine's Nikishino, No House Untouched by Fighting

In the village of Nikishino, in eastern Ukraine, recent fighting has brought utter devastation. Ninety percent of the houses are damaged or destroyed after government forces tried and failed to stop rebels advancing on the strategically important town of Debaltseve nearby. Patrick Wells reports for VOA from Nikishino.
Video

Video Crime Scenes Re-Created in 3-D Visualization

Police and prosecutors sometimes resort to re-creations of crime scenes in order to better understand the interaction of all participants in complicated cases. A Swiss institute says advanced virtual reality technology can be used for quality re-creations of events at the moment of the crime. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisis

There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Growing Concerns Over Whether Myanmar’s Next Elections Will Be Fair

Myanmar has scheduled national elections for November that are also expected to include a landmark referendum on the country's constitution. But there are growing concerns over whether the government is taking the necessary steps to prepare for a free and fair vote. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman was recently in Myanmar and files this report from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok.
Video

Video Nigeria’s Ogonis Divided Over Resuming Oil Production

More than two decades ago, Nigeria’s Ogoni people forced Shell oil company to cease drilling on their land, saying it was polluting the environment. Now, some Ogonis say it’s time for the oil to flow once again. Chris Stein reports from Kegbara Dere, Nigeria.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More