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

This US Epidemic Keeps Getting Worse

One in 4 Americans suffers from this condition More

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends 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.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs