Friday, May 2, 2014

Ukraine unrest: Kiev resumes military operation in east

Ukraine unrest: Kiev resumes military operation in east

Ukrainian soldiers in Andreevka, 2 May Andreevka is one of the flashpoints between the military and pro-Russian separatists
Ukraine's government has resumed military action to tackle pro-Russian separatists in the east, after a day of deadly violence.

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov confirmed the "active phase of the operation continued at dawn", with attacks around the town of Kramatorsk.

The worst violence on Friday was in the south-western city of Odessa.

Dozens died in a fire at a building taken over by pro-Russians, in violence the US called "senseless".

Mr Avakov said Ukrainian forces had on Saturday taken a television tower in Kramatorsk, which is near the pro-Russian separatists' stronghold of Sloviansk.

"We are not stopping," Mr Avakov wrote on his Facebook page.

Odessa arrests The BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Donetsk says that although it appears the Ukrainian forces are continuing operations around Sloviansk, they have not yet tried to advance into the centre.
She says she spoke to residents of the area last night and was told some in Kramatorsk had gone out to try to stop armoured personnel carriers from entering.
Footage shows people trying to escape the building in Odessa on Friday

She says the defence ministry also reported "serious fighting" last night in Andreevka, some 6km (four miles) west of Sloviansk.

The ministry said pro-Russian groups had attacked the armed forces and two Ukrainian soldiers were killed.

The operations come a day after running battles between pro-Kiev groups and separatists in Odessa, which culminated in the fire at the Trade Unions House.

Officials said some people were overwhelmed by smoke and others died after they jumped from the building.
A protester walks past a burning tent camp and a fire in the trade union building in Odessa - 2 May 2014 Trade Unions House in Odessa was engulfed with flames after rival groups exchanged petrol bombs
A pro-Russian aims a pistol at supporters of the Kiev government during clashes in Odessa - 2 May 2014 Pro-Russian crowds took to the streets of Odessa, with some armed men threatening Kiev supporters
Pro-Ukrainian crowds pick up rubble from the street to throw at militant separatists in Odessa - 2 May 2014 The violent clashes followed a rally by Ukrainian football fans in the south-western port city

The exact sequence of events is unclear, but reports suggest separatists had barricaded themselves inside the building and both sides were throwing petrol bombs.

Local police chief Petro Lutsiuk told Reuters news agency on Saturday that more than 130 people had been arrested following the violence.

The US said the unrest was "unacceptable" and urged all sides to work together to restore law and order in light of the "tragedy".

"The violence and mayhem that led to so many senseless deaths and injuries is unacceptable," the state department said in a statement.

It also called on the Ukrainian authorities "to bring all those responsible to justice".
Map showing eastern Ukraine
Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Danylo Lubkivsky told the BBC that an investigation was under way but insisted Russia was behind the violence.

"The situation remains under control. But the security situation is threatened by Russian special agents," he said.

Earlier on Friday four people were killed in clashes between rival groups in Odessa - the first such eruption of violence in the south after weeks of mounting unrest in the east.

The BBC's David Stern in Kiev says the death toll in Odessa is the highest since violence broke out between pro-EU protesters and police in the capital in February.

The Black Sea city is ethnically mixed with a large number of Russian speakers, our correspondent says.

'A criminal adventure' Pro-Russian gunmen have seized scores of government buildings in eastern Ukraine in recent weeks and have detained several international observers.
Fergal Keane reports from outside Sloviansk where several people died in clashes

On Friday President Olexander Turchynov said that Ukrainian armed forces had killed many separatists in an offensive in Sloviansk.

Government forces took over pro-Russian checkpoints outside the city but separatists shot down two Ukrainian army helicopters, killing a pilot and another serviceman.

Russia responded by calling a meeting of the Security Council in New York, where it criticised Kiev and labelled the government offensive in eastern Ukraine a "criminal adventure".

The US called for commitments made in Geneva last month to be implemented, referring to the agreement signed by all sides to dissolve illegal militia operating in eastern Ukraine.
The West continues to accuse Moscow of provoking the unrest in eastern Ukraine, something Russia denies.

Eastern Ukraine has a large Russian-speaking population. It was a stronghold for President Viktor Yanukovych before he was overthrown by pro-Western protesters in February.

Russia then annexed the Crimean peninsula - part of Ukraine but with a Russian-speaking majority - in a move that provoked international outrage.
BBC Map of Odessa and Trade Unions House
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