scrambles fighter jets above rebel positions as missile attack resumes
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[July 12, 2014]
KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine scrambled
jet fighters to strike at rebel positions early on Saturday, after
separatists resumed missile attacks on government forces near the
frontier with Russia, the border guard service said.
In a night of violence in several areas of eastern Ukraine
following a missile strike by separatists on Friday that killed at
least 23 government servicemen, Ukrainian forces also used artillery
to respond to rebel fire, the military said.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had pledged to "find and
destroy" the pro-Russian rebels responsible for the missile attack
at Zelenopillya, which also wounded nearly 100.
At least two more Ukrainian soldiers were killed and about 20
injured on Saturday in a mortar and missile bombardment by the
rebels of army checkpoints at Dyakove and Nyzhnoderevechka near
Luhansk, the government's "anti-terrorist" operation said.
Luhansk, like the main industrial city of Donetsk, is controlled by
pro-Russian separatists who set up 'people's republics' in
Russian-speaking areas and declared a wish to join Russia in
response to a pro-Western revolt in the capital Kiev.
Rebel fighters meanwhile said that Ukrainian fighter planes had
carried out air strikes on Saturday in the eastern town of Horlivka.
"There were a series of powerful explosions. Details are being
clarified," a separatist representative, Konstantin Knyrik, was
quoted as saying by Russia's interfax news agency.
The Grad missile strike on Friday on a motorized brigade at
Zelenopillya was one of the deadliest against government forces in
three months of fighting since the separatist rebellions erupted
following Russia's annexation of Crimea.
Poroshenko, whose forces had recently seemed to be prevailing over
the rebels, said they would pay for the strike in their "scores and
The border guard service in a statement said army and border guard
units had again come under missile attack in several areas near the
border just after midnight.
"The Ukrainian armed forces returned artillery fire. On the defense
minister's order, fighter jets went up to patrol Ukraine's air space
and be ready to deflect further possible attacks," it said.
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NEW SENSE OF URGENCY
Friday's military setback at Zelenopillya took the gloss off the
government's recapture of the rebel stronghold of Slaviansk last
weekend, and seemed likely to add a new sense of urgency to
diplomatic attempts to end the worst crisis between Russia and the
West since the Cold War.
The Ukrainian military, following the Slaviansk victory, says it has
readied a plan to oust the rebels now from Donetsk, a city of
900,000 people where separatist forces are dug in.
Poroshenko has said the military plan will be aimed at protecting
civilians there and has appeared to rule out the use of air strikes
and artillery to crush the rebels.
Poroshenko, who was also urged by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to
use a sense of proportion in actions against separatists, had
further talks on Friday with Donetsk mayor Aleksander Lukyanchenko
on the issue.
Western allies and Russia are pressing for a new meeting of the
'contact group' involving separatist leaders to try to negotiate an
end to the crisis.
Poroshenko says he has proposed various venues for these talks to
take place but has said there will be no repeat of a 10-day
unilateral ceasefire by government forces which lapsed on June 30.
The Ukrainian government says that ceasefire was repeatedly violated
by the rebels and that more than 20 Ukrainian servicemen were killed
while it was in force.
(Reporting by Natalia Zinets; Writing by Richard Balmforth, editing
by John Stonestreet)
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