In wake of Ukraine elections, Ukrainian air force launches strike on rebel-held airport
By End the Lie
While the new president-elect of Ukraine promised on Monday to bring an end to the pro-Russia separatist movement in eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainian air force launched strikes on a rebel-held airport in Donetsk.
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Petro Poroshenko, the new president, said he is willing to begin talks with Moscow and wants to negotiate an end to the insurgency, according to the Associated Press. Yet he also said he rejected negotiations with “bandits,” referring to the insurgents in the east.
The offer for talks was quickly welcomed by Russian officials, who have said they are ready to hold direct talks with the new president.
Still, he described the separatists as “Somali pirates” and the Ukrainian military launched attacks from fighter jets and military helicopters against the rebels in the airport in Donetsk.
Many flights to and from the airport were canceled or delayed and access was blocked by police, according to AP. Sustained artillery and gun fire was heard as dense black smoke rose from the airport and jets and helicopters flew overhead.
Paratroopers were also involved in the attack, according to Reuters.
The airstrike was launched by the military after they gave the separatists an ultimatum to lay down their weapons, which they ignored, according to Vladislav Seleznyov, a spokesman for Kiev’s anti-terrorist operation.
The clashes seem to be quite serious indeed as an AP journalist reported seeing several vehicles packed with dozens of heavily armed separatists arriving near the airport. Some 30 minutes later, several flatbed trucks of reinforcements arrived as well.
While Poroshenko said he would travel to eastern Ukraine to seek peace with the insurgents, according to USA Today, he also rejected any talks with “terrorists,” according to Reuters.
Poroshenko said that a robust military campaign in the east should be able to end the separatist revolt in “a matter of hours,” according to Reuters.
“The anti-terrorist operation should not last two or three months. It should last for a matter of hours,” Poroshenko said.
He spoke about the rebel fighters as well during his news conference in Kiev held as the fighting in Donetsk began.
“[The separatist fighters] want to preserve a bandit state which is held in place by force of arms,” Poroshenko said. “These are simply bandits. Nobody in any civilized state will hold negotiations with terrorists.”
The fighting at the airport continued for hours. A Reuters photographer said he saw three Ukrainian Mi-24 helicopter gunships firing rockets and a cannon at the concrete and glass terminal as well as targets on the runway after three hours of fighting.
Sky News reports the Ukrainian military deployed Mi-8 helicopters filled with paratroopers, SU-25 fighter jets and MiG-29s to fight the separatists.
Reuters notes that the rebel attack on the airport might have been an effort to prevent Poroshenko from traveling there as part of his promised visit to eastern Ukraine.
Some footage of the events was published by Sky News, showing the rebels coming in on a flatbed truck and a gunship firing what appears to be a flare.
A Ukrainian security spokesman said that the paratroopers were now “cleaning up the area.”
Sky News notes that the assault could be a sign of a renewed assault on the pro-Russian rebels, with the new president promising to invest more money in the army.