Operations against Ukraine rebels 'will continue'

2014-05-03 10:02
(File,  AFP)

(File, AFP)

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Donetsk - Ukraine said military operations against pro-Russian separatists in the industrial east of the country continued at dawn on Saturday near the town of Kramatorsk, vowing it would not stop a bid to dislodge them.

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said Ukrainian forces had seized control of a television tower in Kramatorsk, near the rebel stronghold of Slaviansk, but gave no information on possible casualties.

Slaviansk was the target on Friday of the most significant advance by Ukrainian forces since the start of an armed uprising in the east a month ago, stalled by well-armed separatists who brought down two military helicopters and dug in the town of 130 000.

"The active phase of the operation continued at dawn," Avakov wrote on his Facebook page. "We are not stopping."

Overnight, Russian media reported fighting near Kramatorsk, citing hospital sources as saying one person had been killed and nine wounded.

Arrests

That followed the deaths of two helicopter crew in Slaviansk. Separatists said three fighters and two civilians were also killed in the Ukrainian advance on the town.

The toll, however, was eclipsed by the deaths of dozens of people in a fire and street-fighting between pro- and anti-Russian groups in Odessa on Ukraine's Black Sea coast on Friday, opening a new front in a conflict that has split the country.

Regional police in Odessa put the death toll at 37, most of whom were killed when the trade union building in the city was set on fire. It said 200 people had been wounded. Local authorities had previously said 43 people had died.

More than 130 people have been detained in Ukraine's southern port city of Odessa after dozens violence involving pro-Russian and groups supporting the government in Kiev, police said on Saturday.

In a statement, local police chief Petro Lutsiuk said those detained could face charges ranging from participating in riots to premeditated murder for Friday's street battles, which resulted in the city's trade union building being set on fire.

Most of those killed either choked on smoke or died after jumping out of the building's windows, officials said.

Police quickly lost control on Friday as hundreds of men including soccer fans staged running battles across the city. Lutsiuk said the police would do everything "to prevent such tragedies in the future".
Read more on:    russia  |  ukraine
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