World

Ukraine's Military Battles Separatists At Donetsk Airport

Fighting broke out in eastern Ukraine Monday when the country's military attacked an airport held by pro-Russian rebel fighters.

Ukraine's Military Battles Separatists At Donetsk Airport
The New York Times / Mauricio Lima
SMS

Fierce fighting once again erupted in Ukraine's troubled Eastern region as the country's new government cracked down hard on pro-Russian separatists.

Ukraine's military mounted a major offensive Monday to retake a key airport in the eastern city of Donetsk. The attack was Ukraine's most serious pushback on the rebels, involving fighter jets and paratroopers. (Via Voice of America)

The military later announced they had successfully driven the rebels out of the airport, though that claim couldn't be verified. Eyewitnesses later reported seeing truckloads of separatist fighters en route to the site. (Via CBS)

The violence comes on the heels of Ukraine's presidential election, hours after billionaire candy magnate Petro Poroshenko declared electoral victory. During his acceptance speech, Poroshenko promised to work with neighboring Russia to restore peace, and to calm the country's troubled Eastern regions. (Via Ukraine News One, The Economist)

But the new President also drew a hard line when it came to the armed separatists.

POROSHENKO: "In no civilized country, nobody has a negotiation with the terrorists. We are a civilized country." (Via BBC)

Bloomberg notes Poroshenko's first acts as president appear to have focused on ramping up the country's "anti-terrorist" operations which have been battling the separatists for months. Poroshenko told reporters future offensives "won't last two or three months; they'll last a few hours."

But more violent clashes with the rebels risk drawing the ire of Moscow, which has toned down its rhetoric on Ukraine's crisis in recent weeks. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who previously called for "an equal dialogue of mutual respect" with Poroshenko's new government also warned escalating anti-terrorist operations would be a "colossal mistake." (Via The Guardian)

At this point, it's still unclear how many people were killed or wounded in Monday's fighting. Government officials told CNN the airport would be reopened by 9 a.m. Tuesday, but it's still unknown if the military has complete control of the area.