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

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    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.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora