Pro-Russian separatists kill six in grenade launcher attack as diplomats seek new talks
By End the Lie
As the German foreign minister is attempting to begin dialogue between the separatists in eastern Ukraine and the interim government in Kiev, pro-Russian separatists attacked government troops with grenade launchers.
The ambush reportedly left six servicemen killed and eight wounded Tuesday afternoon, after the attack was launched outside of Kramatorsk, the Associated Press reports citing the defense ministry.
At least 30 insurgents used grenade launchers and automatic weapons in the ambush, according to the defense ministry.
A report from Britain’s Telegraph placed the number of dead Ukrainian military personnel at seven.
The attack reportedly took place on a road linking Slovyansk and Kramatorsk, which are both controlled by pro-Russian rebels.
The town of Kramatorsk is in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk, one of the two regions that declared independence on Monday after a referendum.
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany arrived in Kiev on Tuesday as part of Germany’s effort to defuse the Ukraine crisis.
German diplomats told The New York Times that Steinmeier met acting Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk in Kiev and has plans to travel to Odessa, where about 40 people were killed in a fire earlier this month.
“We support your efforts to launch a national dialogue, under Ukrainian ownership, here in your country, through round tables, at the central level and in the regions,” Steinmeier said at a joint news conference with Yatsenyuk.
“I hope this will create the conditions to take a step to bring back occupied territory, disarm armed groups step-by-step and reinstall the authority of the state,” he said.
Steinmeier added that the presidential elections, planned for May 25, will “play a crucial role” in ending the crisis.
This marks the third time Steinmeier has visited Ukraine since February when a deal was struck between then-president Viktor Yanukovych and the French and Polish foreign ministers. That deal fell apart when Yanukovych was ousted.
The attack on the Ukrainian military personnel on Tuesday was the largest loss of life by government forces since the government renewed their operation in eastern Ukraine aimed at ousting separatists.
Sergei Taruta, the official governor of Donetsk, announced on Tuesday that the region would still vote in the presidential election, despite the self-proclaimed independence.
The Telegraph notes that Taruta is a steel billionaire who was appointed by the interim government in Kiev in March.
“He remains in the city, although rebels who denounce him as an agent of a ‘fascist junta’ now occupy his old office,” the paper reports.
Taruta said the pro-Russian separatists only have minority support in the region.
“This part of Ukraine remains part of Ukraine,” he said, while he admitted that voting in the May 25 election would be impossible in Slovyansk.
“In all other cities, thank God, we are making all the necessary preparations,” Taruta said. “All the polling stations, all the election committees are being formed this week. Ballot papers are now in the process of being printed.”
Taruta said that there will be sufficient government forces to secure the people voting in the election.
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