Skip to comments.Ukraine destroys two pro-Russian bases in the east
Posted on 05/15/2014 4:59:24 AM PDT by McGruff
The Ukrainian army destroyed two military bases of pro-Russian insurgents in overnight operations, the countrys acting president said Thursday, as the government returned to the offensive a day after the start of European-brokered talks which have yet to draw in the warring sides.
Ukrainian forces destroyed an insurgent base outside the town of Kramatorsk, 150 kilometres west of the Russian border, acting President Oleksandr Turchynov told the parliament on Thursday.
In another operation, Turchynov said troops destroyed an insurgent base in the nearby city of Slavyansk.
Ukraines defence ministry said there were no casualties while the army took three insurgents captive. One of them had an anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade launcher.
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that Ukraine is on the brink of civil war, making it difficult to hold free and fair elections later this month.
“When Ukrainians kill Ukrainians I believe this is as close to a civil war as you can get,” Lavrov said in an interview with Bloomberg television.
Lavrov added that “in east and south of Ukraine there is a war, a real war, with heavy weaponry used.
“And if this is conducive to free and fair elections then I don’t recognise what free and fair is.”
Kiev on Wednesday hosted the first round of so-called national unity talks under an OSCE initiative to try to resolve the deepening crisis on Europe's eastern flank and allow the May 25 vote to go ahead.
Crucially, the pro-Moscow rebels fighting against Kiev's rule in the industrial east of the country were not at the negotiating table despite Western calls for the talks to be inclusive.
Ukraine's interim President Oleksandr Turchynov said his administration was ready to talk to pro-Russians in the east but that the separatists must first lay down their arms.
“We will not yield to blackmail,” he said at Wednesday's talks. “We are ready to listen to the people of the east but they must not shoot, loot or occupy government buildings.”
Who's blackmailing who?
Yet Russia considers the elections free and fair when they vote to not be part of Ukraine.
MOSCOW-Moscow is unaware of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic request to join Russia, a foreign ministry spokesman said Thursday.
A referendum to secede from Ukraine was held Sunday in the Ukrainian region of Donetsk, a stronghold of pro-Russian separatists, when residents voted for independence from Kiev. The leaders of the self-proclaimed republic on Monday declared independence and asked to join Russia.
Foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said he had heard a lot about the request from the media but that Russia hasn't received it.
Ukrainian government forces are battling for control in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, where armed pro-Russia separatists have seized government buildings. Over the weekend, residents in both regions voted for independence from Kiev, although the balloting was widely dismissed as illegitimate.
AP journalists in Slovyansk heard bursts of automatic gunfire overnight, but details of Turchynov’s statement couldn't be independently confirmed. The situation was quiet during the day Thursday, and there has been no comment from the insurgents to the claims made by Turchynov.
Turchynov didn't describe the insurgents’ bases or give any further details. Both government troops and insurgents have checkpoints around Slovyansk and Kramatorsk.
Some previous Ukrainian claims of successful operations have proved to be exaggerated.