'War' in Ukraine as Airport Battle Leaves at Least 50 Dead
Assault continues as reporting confirms that military recruiting for third battalion to fight separatists in the east
Over fifty people were reported dead on Tuesday after the Ukrainian military launched an assault on armed separatists who on Monday had overtaken the airport in the eastern city of Donetsk.
"The airport is under our full control," said Ukrainian interior minister Arsen Avakov in a statement. "The enemy has suffered grave losses. We have none."
Despite the pronouncement, the military continued their assault on Tuesday. The New York Times reports that at noon fighter jets "resumed their flights over the airport area and shooting started up again, signaling a renewed push that indicated that the Ukrainian forces did not fully control the area."
The battle in Donetsk began a day after national elections on Sunday and just hours following a statement by president-elect Petro Poroshenko that he would take a tough stand against the "terrorists" in the east.
Reporting for the Kyev Post, Christopher Miller posted photos and videos of the assault on his Twitter feed.
At a press conference on Tuesday, deputy Interior Affairs minister Serhii Yarovyi announced that the government in Kiev is now recruiting for a third battalion of the National Guard.
"Preparation for the creation of the third battalion has now begun," he said. According to Yarovyi, the second battalion was sent to the eastern regions on Tuesday to participate in the "anti-terrorist" operation, where the first battalion has long-been deployed. Ukrainian News is reporting that the National Guard is seeking "everyone who wants to join and that men aged 18 to 55 are currently undergoing training."
Calling for an immediate halt to the intensifying military actions, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov appealed to Poroshenko to end the violence and make steps toward diplomatic solutions.
“We hope he will act in the interests of the Ukrainian people as a whole,” Mr. Lavrov said. “If this is the case, he will find a serious and reliable partner in Russia.”
"They have a real war there so far,” he added.
Offering a view from the ground in Ukraine, Guardian correspondents Alec Luhn in Kiev and Shaun Walker in Donetsk report:
On Tuesday afternoon fighters built barricades on the main road from the airport to the city, fearful that the Ukrainian army could move from the airport to make a decisive move against the occupied buildings in the city centre.
A Ukrainian official said on Tuesday that Kiev knew all separatist positions in Donetsk, and that they would be attacked using "special high-precision weapons" if they did not surrender.
Also on Tuesday, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe said that it had lost contact with a team of four international observers in the city on Monday evening and that they had not been heard from since.
"The team was on a routine patrol east of Donetsk when contact was lost. We have been unable to re-establish communication until now," the OSCE said.
“This is war,” said Alexander Borodai, the leader of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic, who confirmed that 50 fighters had been killed in Monday's attack.
“Kiev is giving us some kinds of ultimatums,” Borodai added defiantly. “Let them keep giving them.”
“They call us terrorists but they are the ones who have come to our home, our land to fight,” Vadim Voit, a driver who has fought with the separatist group told the Times. "Kiev is just not listening to us,” he said. “We can’t make peace with them now.”