The browser or device you are using is out of date. It has known security flaws and a limited feature set. You will not see all the features of some websites. Please update your browser. A list of the most popular browsers can be found below.
The bodies of at least 30 pro-Russian rebels have been taken to a hospital in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk after a day of heavy fighting in which government forces deployed combat jets and helicopter gunships, separatist sources said Tuesday.
The rebel-held city of 1 million people has been engulfed in fighting since Monday, when rebels moved to seize the airport, Ukraine's second-largest. Kiev responded with its harshest crackdown operation yet, just a day after President-elect Petro Poroshenko vowed to wipe out the country's separatist movement in a matter of "hours."
Intense gunfire raged throughout the day and into the night as plumes of black smoke rose into the air and officials shut down the Donetsk airport and nearby streets to traffic amid the fighting. Leonid Baranov, a leader of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic, said about 30 bodies had been taken to the Kalinin morgue, but Associated Press reporters could not immediately count them or confirm Baranov’s statement.
Alexander Lukyanchenko, mayor of Donetsk, said on Tuesday the total number of the dead had reached at least 40, including two civilians, but he was not sure how many of the rest were rebels, Reuters reported. He went on television to advise residents to stay at home.
Arsen Avakov, Ukraine's interior minister, said in a statement later Tuesday that the government operation had been a success and that the airport was under the "full control" of Kiev. "The enemy suffered heavy losses. We have none," he said.
In the neighboring Luhansk region, which like Donetsk has declared independence from the central government, the Ukrainian Border Guards Service said its officers fought a gun battle with a group of men who were trying to break through the border from Russia. It said one intruder was wounded and the border guards seized several vehicles loaded with Kalashnikov assault rifles, rocket grenade launchers and explosives.
The fighting comes just after Poroshenko claimed victory in Sunday's presidential vote. Poroshenko, who has yet to be sworn in, has pledged to negotiate a peaceful end to the pro-Russian uprising in the eastern part of the country, where rebels have seized government offices and fought Ukrainian troops for more than a month.
Yet he compared the separatists to "Somali pirates," saying arms should be used against "killers and terrorists." He also indicated that he wants a quick end to the military operation in the east.
"The anti-terrorist operation cannot and should not last two or three months," he said. "It should and will last hours."
The latest developments imperil an initiative by Poroshenko and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to hold a dialogue and resolve the crisis diplomatically.
Poroshenko, known for his pragmatism, supports building strong ties with Europe but has also stressed the importance of mending relations with Moscow. Upon claiming victory, he said his first step as president would be to visit the troubled east. He said that he hoped Russia would support his efforts to bring stability and that he wanted to hold talks with Moscow.
For his part, Lavrov welcomed Poroshenko's promise to negotiate with people in the east and said Moscow was ready for direct talks with him. He pointedly said Russia does not want the United States and the European Union as mediators.
But Lavrov said that dialogue was possible only if Ukraine refrained from cracking down on pro-Russian separatists.
On Tuesday, he also dismissed rumors that a visit by Poroshenko to Moscow in the near future was under consideration, according to Interfax news agency.