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

    South Sudan Sends First Ever Official Olympic Team to Rio

    VOA caught up with Santino Kenyi, 16, one of three athletes who will compete in this year's summer games in Brazil

    Arrest of Malawi's 'Hyena' Man Highlights Clash of Ritual, Health and Women's Rights

    Ritual practice of deflowering young girls is blamed for spreading deadly AIDS virus

    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    VOA finds things Americans take for granted are special to foreigners

    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.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora