Ukraine military launches offensive against rebels
by Nebi Qena, Associated Press
June 03, 2014 08:00 AM | 886 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A pro-Russian holds his weapon during clashes with Ukrainian troops on the outskirts of Luhansk, Ukraine, Monday, June 2, 2014. Hundreds of pro-Russia insurgents attacked a border guard base in eastern Ukraine on Monday, with some firing rocket-propelled grenades from the roof of a nearby residential building. At least five rebels were killed when the guards returned fire, a spokesman for the border guard service said. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
A pro-Russian holds his weapon during clashes with Ukrainian troops on the outskirts of Luhansk, Ukraine, Monday, June 2, 2014. Hundreds of pro-Russia insurgents attacked a border guard base in eastern Ukraine on Monday, with some firing rocket-propelled grenades from the roof of a nearby residential building. At least five rebels were killed when the guards returned fire, a spokesman for the border guard service said. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
slideshow
A pro-Russian rebel prepares to fire a rocket propelled grenade during clashes as they attack a border guard base held by Ukrainian troops on the outskirts of Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, Monday, June 2, 2014. Some hundreds of pro-Russia insurgents attacked the base on Monday, with some firing rocket-propelled grenades from the roof of a nearby residential building. At least five rebels were killed when the guards returned fire, a spokesman for the border guard service said.(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
A pro-Russian rebel prepares to fire a rocket propelled grenade during clashes as they attack a border guard base held by Ukrainian troops on the outskirts of Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, Monday, June 2, 2014. Some hundreds of pro-Russia insurgents attacked the base on Monday, with some firing rocket-propelled grenades from the roof of a nearby residential building. At least five rebels were killed when the guards returned fire, a spokesman for the border guard service said.(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
slideshow
Pro-Russian rebels reload weapons during clashes with Ukrainian troops on the outskirts of Luhansk, Ukraine, Monday, June 2, 2014. Hundreds of pro-Russia insurgents attacked a border guard base in eastern Ukraine on Monday, with some firing rocket-propelled grenades from the roof of a nearby residential building. At least five rebels were killed when the guards returned fire, a spokesman for the border guard service said.(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Pro-Russian rebels reload weapons during clashes with Ukrainian troops on the outskirts of Luhansk, Ukraine, Monday, June 2, 2014. Hundreds of pro-Russia insurgents attacked a border guard base in eastern Ukraine on Monday, with some firing rocket-propelled grenades from the roof of a nearby residential building. At least five rebels were killed when the guards returned fire, a spokesman for the border guard service said.(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
slideshow
SLOVYANSK, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian troops on Tuesday launched an offensive against pro-Russian insurgents in the eastern city of Slovyansk and advanced through the city's outskirts, the nation's interior minister said.

Arsen Avakov said that government troops broke through rebel positions around the village of Semenovka on the eastern fringe of Slovyansk. "An active offensive stage of the counterterrorist operation is underway in Slovyansk," he wrote on his Facebook page.

Local residents said that several Ukrainian combat jets and helicopter gunships attacked rebel positions on the eastern outskirts of Slovyansk, and heavy artillery barrages have continued throughout the day.

An AP journalist heard sustained gun and artillery fire and saw plumes of black smoke rising over the city.

Avakov warned residents in Slovyansk and nearby cities of Kramatorsk and Krasny Liman to stay at home.

A Ukrainian military officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media, said one serviceman was killed and 13 others were wounded when their vehicle came under rebel fire near Slovyansk.

The Interfax news agency quoted Vyacheslav Ponomarev, the leader of insurgents in Slovyansk, as saying that his men downed a Ukrainian jet and a helicopter gunship. His claim couldn't be independently confirmed.

Ukrainian authorities have repeatedly announced an escalation in armed operations, only to eventually back down. Government forces have in recent days been noticeably reinforced to the north of Slovyansk, however, and deployment of air power over the past week has signalled increased determination.

Slovyansk, which sits on a strategic highway, has seen daily fighting between government forces and the rebels, who have seized government buildings and set up checkpoints around the eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk that form Ukraine's industrial heartland.

The fighting has escalated following the May 25 presidential election won by billionaire candy magnate Petro Poroshenko, with rebels launching an attack on Donetsk airport and shooting down a government helicopter over Slovyansk.

On Monday, hundreds of rebels armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades mounted a daylong siege of a border guards base on the outskirts of Luhansk that coordinates the protection of Ukraine's border with Russia. Border guards said they killed at least five rebels in repelling the attack.

Ukraine's acting chief prosecutor, Oleh Makhnitskiy, said Tuesday that 181 people, including 59 Ukrainian servicemen, have been killed in fighting in eastern Ukraine and another 293 have been wounded. With the insurgents controlling several cities in the east, the death toll released by Makhnitskyi is likely to be incomplete.

___

Efrem Lukatsky near Izyum, Ukraine contributed to this report.



Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



Comments
(0)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet
*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, and spam will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides