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Dozens of pro-Russian separatists killed in Donetsk

By Aileen Graef   |   May 27, 2014 at 10:07 AM   |   Comments

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DONETSK, Ukraine, May 27 (UPI) -- Thirty pro-Russian separatists are reported dead and the Ukrainian military has full control of the Sergey Prokofiev Donetsk airport after a firefight Tuesday.

Ukrainian military forces converged on the airport Monday morning and the fighting lasted through the night. After the pro-Russian separatists stormed the airport, the Ukrainian military responded swiftly with sir strikes and a ground assault. Insurgents and representatives of the self-proclaimed People's Republic of Donetsk said that more than 30 people were killed in the fighting.

The clashes come after newly elected Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko vowed to take a tough stance "within hours, not months" against the "terrorists" in eastern Ukraine.

"We just reacted to the situation, the seizure of the airport and the shooting at the civilian plane," said Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov. "The result is the airport is under our full control. The other side had heavy losses. There was no one killed on our side. The operation is still ongoing in Donetsk."

Russian President Vladimir Putin called Tuesday for an immediate halt in the assault against the pro-Russian separatists and for the Ukrainian government to engage in dialogue with the insurgents. Poroshenko said he is open to discussions with Moscow to find a peaceful solution to the crisis. The Kremlin said it would respect the results of the election in Kiev and engage in discourse with whomever won but Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov did not indicate that discourse would begin in the near future.

"The question of a visit to Russia by Poroshenko is not being considered and is not being discussed through diplomatic or any other channels," said Lavrov as he reiterated Russia's insistence for Kiev to stop all military operations in the east.

In addition to the fighting at the airport, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) reported that it lost contact with one of its teams based in the region around 6 p.m. local time. The team is comprised of four international Special Monitoring Mission Members who are Swiss, Turkish, Estonian and Danish. The OSCE is currently working with its members in the area to learn of the team's whereabouts.

The escalating violence in Ukraine has both sides concerned that Ukraine is on the verge of a full-blown civil war.

U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoff Pyatt said the conflict in Ukraine is now entering its "most kinetic phase."

Lavrov said in a news conference on Monday that a "real war" is beginning in Donetsk and Luhansk.

Follow @AileenGraef and @UPI on Twitter.
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