News / Europe

Ukraine Rebels Cite Heavy Losses Battling Kyiv Troops

Pro-Russian fighters wave white flag to start handover of bodies of Ukrainian troops killed in plane shot down near Luhansk, at a check point in the village of Karlivka near Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, June 18, 2014.
Pro-Russian fighters wave white flag to start handover of bodies of Ukrainian troops killed in plane shot down near Luhansk, at a check point in the village of Karlivka near Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, June 18, 2014.
Reuters
Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists were locked in fierce fighting in the east of Ukraine on Thursday and a rebel commander acknowledged big losses among separatists heavily outgunned by government forces.

Even as President Petro Poroshenko and his team prepared to unveil their blueprint for ending more than two months of rebellion, government forces, using artillery and heavy armor, said they were tightening the noose on separatists near Krasny Liman, north of the main regional hub of Donetsk.

Government forces said the fighting erupted in the early hours after rebels refused to lay down their arms as part of Poroshenko's peace plan.

Both Ukrainian government and rebel accounts of the fighting suggested a major battle involving armored vehicles including tanks.

One military source said 4,000 separatists were involved, while rebels sources in Donetsk said Ukrainian infantry supported by 20 tanks and many other armored vehicles were storming the village of Yampil, about 12 km (7 miles) east of Krasny Liman.

A top rebel commander, Igor Strelkov, reported “heavy losses” in equipment and arms among the separatists, faced with a huge superiority in heavy armor on the government side at Yampil.

“We beat off the first attack and destroyed one tank. But it is difficult to take on 20 tanks. The battle is going on. Our people are holding but we can't rule out that they [government forces] will break through,” Strelkov, who is also known as Girkin, said in a videoed statement. He urged Moscow to “take some measures”.

There was no word on casualties from the government side.

From the nearby town of Siversk, artillery blasts, small arms fire and machinegun-fire could be heard from about three km away. From high ground, smoke could be seen billowing from rebel positions under attack.

Poroshenko, installed as a president on June 7, is pushing a peace plan to end the rebellion which he said would be unveiled soon and presented to European Union ministers early next week.

It includes an offer of a unilateral ceasefire by government forces and amnesty for the separatists - but only if they lay down their weapons.

Rebels 'refused to disarm'

A government forces spokesman said on Thursday that it was when rebels refused a call to disarm - made in leaflets fired by big guns into rebel positions - that fighting broke out in the early hours of the morning.

“We issued an ultimatum to the terrorists overnight to surrender their weapons. We guarantee their safety and investigation in line with Ukrainian law ... They refused,” said government forces spokesman Vladyslav Seleznyov.

“Now we are trying to narrow the encirclement. They are trying to break out,” Seleznyov said.

Separatist rebellions erupted in eastern Ukraine in early April after street protests in Kyiv toppled the Moscow-backed leader Viktor Yanukovich and Russia in turn annexed the Crimean peninsula. Eastern rebels have called for union with Russia.

The violence has cost the lives of 147 Ukrainian soldiers and wounded 267 up to now, the defense ministry said on Wednesday. Many scores of separatist militia, civilians and members of other military bodies such as the national guard have also been killed and the overall death toll is much higher.

Kyiv has accused Russia of fomenting the unrest and of allowing volunteer fighters from Russia to cross into Ukraine to support the rebels.

This is denied by Moscow, which has been urging Poroshenko to end “punitive action” against the rebels.

The United States and its Western allies largely share Ukraine's view. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden assured Poroshenko late on Wednesday there would be “further costs on Russia” unless it used its influence to stop the separatist violence, the White House said.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen meanwhile sounded a new alarm about Russia's possible intentions, saying that at least a few thousand more Russian troops were now on Ukraine's long eastern border.

“I consider this a very regrettable step backwards. It seems Russia keeps the option open to intervene further in Ukraine,” he said in London. “The international community would have to respond in a firm manner if Russia were to intervene further in Ukraine.”

Boost for Poroshenko

In Kyiv, Poroshenko received a boost when parliament resoundingly endorsed his nominations for three key posts including that of foreign minister.

Speaking to journalists later, he said he himself would sign an association agreement with the European Union on June 27 which will decisively shift Ukraine away from Russia's influence and rule it out from joining a Moscow-led customs union.

It was Yanukovich's sudden refusal last November to sign that pact and upgrade relations with Moscow that precipated his own ousting and Russia's annexing of Crimea, and sparked the worst crisis in Russia-West relations since the Cold War.

But Poroshenko knows he has to impress the West with his intentions of reaching a peaceful settlement to the eastern crisis by using minimum force. He said his new foreign minister, Pavlo Klimkin, would unveil his peace plan for the east on June 23 at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg.

Ukrainian forces, which lost 49 servicemen on June 14 when separatists brought down a military helicopter in Luhansk region, have been gradually tightening their encirclement of rebel positions to the south and east of Krasny Liman including the rebel stronghold of Slaviansk.

Olesya, a woman in Yampil, said Ukrainian forces had entered the village in armored vehicles bearing the Ukrainian flag.

“There was fighting all night. Mines were flying over our heads. Planes flew over and we could hear heavy weapons. It's awful what is going on here,” she said.

Sergei, a 45-year-old who was leaving the village of Zakitne by scooter, said people had been sheltering in cellars for days and his wife had already left because there was no food, electricity or gas.

He was now leaving because “there are homes on fire and dead people on the streets.”

“There is an ongoing active phase of the ATO [anti-terrorist operation] in the region of Krasny Liman,” said government forces spokesman Vladyslav Seleznyov

Asked about the report that 4,000 separatists could be involved, Seleznyov, the government forces spokesman, replied: “Then, there'll be 4,000 coffins.”

You May Like

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Vasya
June 19, 2014 5:40 PM
"Kyiv"? In the English language, the name of the city has been spelled as "Kiev" for at least several decades. Why in the world are you spelling it in this bizarre fashion now? You don't spell Moscow as "Moskva", do you?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid