18 Jan 2015

Ukraine troops ‘reclaim most of Donetsk airport’ from rebels

Ukrainian troops retake almost all the territory of Donetsk airport in the east of the country, officials say, as thousands take part in a peace march in tribute to victims killed on a passenger bus.

Credit: Army.SOS

The airport in eastern Ukraine had been lost to separatists in recent weeks, military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said.

“The decision was taken for a mass operation … We succeeded in almost completely cleaning the territory of the airport, which belongs to the territory of Ukrainian forces as marked by military separation lines,” he said in a televised briefing.

Lysenko said the operation had returned the battle lines near the airport to the previous status quo and that the Ukrainian army had thus not violated the Minsk 12-point peace plan agreed with Russia and separatist leaders last September.

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Three Ukrainian soldiers are said to have been killed yesterday during the fighting, Kiev’s military reported.

The heavy fighting is in spite of a 12-point peace blueprint mapped out in Minsk in early September which called for a ceasefire in the nine-month conflict in which more than 4,800 people have been killed, according to World Health Organisation.

As fighting subsided, thousands took part in a peace march in tribute to the victims on board a passenger bus, which came under fire near the town of Volnovakha, in Kiev.

Twelve civilians are reported to have been killed on Tuesday 13 January, as the passenger bus stopped at an army checkpoint.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko condemned the bus attack as an act that “chilled the heart” and blamed it on the forces of the separatist Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics.

“These deaths are on the conscience of the DNR and LNR gangs and on those who stand behind them,” he said, promising to sign a decree on more troops for the front.

A planned meeting of representatives from Ukraine, Russia and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and separatist leaders on the Ukraine crisis failed to materialise in the Belarussian capital Minsk on Friday.

A meeting of the so-called ‘contact group’ is seen as vital for getting the warring parties to observe a real ceasefire.