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  • Smoke rises above the Sergey Prokofiev International Airport in Donetsk.

    Smoke rises above the Sergey Prokofiev International Airport in Donetsk. | Photo: Reuters

Published 18 January 2015

Kiev launched a massive operation against the rebel-held regions in eastern Ukraine.

The Ukrainian government claimed Sunday it had retaken control over Donetsk International Airport after a massive operation was launched by government military forces.

“Our forces managed to almost completely clear the territory of the airport,” Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said in Kiev.

The takeover of the facility is part of a wider offensive launched by the Ukrainian army against rebel-controlled areas in the east.

“Locals in Donetsk said they haven’t heard such intensive shelling since summer (…) the Ukrainian military are using all kinds of weapons, Grad multiple rocket launchers, mortars,” Valentin Motuzenko, a military official in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, told Interfax news agency. 

Other areas of the east have also been targeted by the military. Two people have died and 16 others were injured after a Ukrainian shell exploded at bus station in the city of Gorlovka, according to the rebel-run Novorossia press agency.

Residential areas have been severely damaged, though the civilian death-toll is yet unknown.

“Kiev always ignored our numerous suggestions to pull back heavy weapons from the disengagement line,” said Alexander Zacharchenko, head of Donetsk, explaining the swiftness of the new attacks.

The new military offensive launched by Kiev comes after new peace talks were announced, set to take place before the end of January.

Ukraine is now setting pre-conditions for further talks. The government is demanding that rebels close the Ukrainian-Russian border, withdrawal heavy weaponry, and release all hostages.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which has been monitoring the conflict for months, urged Kiev to stop its latest offensive.


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