Ukraine tightens grip on rebels amid truce pressure

2014-07-09 15:59
(Sergey Bobok, AFP)

(Sergey Bobok, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Donetsk - Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was to face renewed European pressure on Wednesday to talk to pro-Russian rebels on a truce as Kiev tightened its grip around jittery rebel stronghold Donetsk.

French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were expected to push the Western-backed leader on a ceasefire in three-way telephone talks but Kiev has until now shrugged off calls to halt an offensive that has reclaimed a string of key rebel towns.

Dressed in military fatigues Poroshenko on Tuesday made a triumphant visit to the vanquished rebel bastion of Slavyansk where government troops raised the national flag last week after pro-Moscow insurgents fled in the face of a fierce onslaught.

Poroshenko told reporters he would only speak "to the real masters of (the eastern region of) Donbass - the steel workers and miners, people who hold the most power" in the conflict zone.

The resurgent leader promised to win back "very soon" the regional capitals of Donetsk and Lugansk but the rebels are digging in and have pledged to battle on.

Preparing for battle

Ukraine's military says it controls all routes in and out of the cities and a spokesperson for Kiev's National Security and Defence Council warned a plan was in place that would give the rebels an "unpleasant surprise."

In Donetsk - an industrial city of some 1 million people - fears are mounting among the population that the mining hub will face clashes similar to the ones that gutted the city's airport in May.

Eyewitnesses told AFP that aircraft on Thursday carried out strikes on an abandoned mine where rebels are based in the western outskirts of the city.

Rebel military chief Igor Strelkov - whom Kiev accuses of being a Moscow intelligence operative - said fighters were working to reinforce the weak defences around Donetsk and bolster their numbers.

"We are taking urgent measures to prepare Donetsk for battle," Stelkov was reported as telling the insurgent's TV station on Wednesday by Russia's state ITAR-TASS news agency.

Diplomatic tug-of-war

Poroshenko - who signed a historic political and trade deal with the EU last month - tore up a 10-day ceasefire on 1 July because of uninterrupted rebel attacks that claimed the lives of more than 20 Ukrainian troops.

Uneasy EU leaders are hoping that a new truce and a Kremlin promise not to meddle can take pressure off the bloc to adopt sweeping sanctions that could damage their own strong energy and financial bonds with Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was to discuss the Ukraine crisis on Wednesday with Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini who is visiting Moscow after Rome took over the EU's rotating presidency.

The Kremlin has been unusually silent since the string of military advances by Kiev with analysts saying that Putin could be distancing himself from the rebels despite calls from hawks to send troops across the border.

US Support

Washington meanwhile has consistently backed the stepped-up campaign being waged by Ukrainian troops and irregular forces since Poroshenko's promise after his election in May to quickly quash an uprising that has cost nearly 500 lives and inflamed East-West ties.

The US views Ukraine's territorial integrity as vital to European security and important to halting Putin's seeming ambition to resurrect a tsarist or post-Soviet empire.

Poroshenko on Tuesday dismissed the man who had headed Kiev's self-proclaimed "anti-terrorist operation" since its launch on 13 April and replaced him with Vasyl Grytsak - a career security service officer.

The reshuffle was one of several in the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) and appeared to represent an attempt by Poroshenko to place trusted associates in top positions rather than any change in tactic in the campaign.

Read more on:    eu  |  vladimir putin  |  francois hollande  |  petro poroshenko  |  us  |  russia  |  ukraine

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go! - shop online today

40% off top appliances!

Save 40% on the top 10 appliances on While stocks last. Shop now!

Save 20% on Camping gear!

Buy 4 camping items and save 20%. While stocks last. Shop now!

Fifty Shades of Grey!

This great read will captivate you from cover to cover and leave you itching for more. Get your copy now!

20% off braai items!

Save 20% when you buy 2 braai items. While stocks last. Shop now!

30% off Pampers!

Save 30% when you buy 3 or more selected pampers products. While stocks last. Shop now!


There is a strong focus on sharing the optimistic energy with your loved one. You are in the mood to go large and impress more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.