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Ukraine launches attacks on rebels

By Agencies in Moscow and Kiev | China Daily | Updated: 2014-07-02 07:54

Ukrainian government forces launched airstrikes and artillery assaults on separatist rebels in the country's eastern regions on Tuesday, a military spokesman said, after President Petro Poroshenko announced he would not renew a cease-fire.

Poroshenko said in an early morning announcement that government forces would renew offensive operations against rebels and "free our lands", hours after a cease-fire to allow for peace talks with the separatists had expired.

"After the president's speech, the anti-terrorist operation went into action. We opened artillery fire, carried out airstrikes at the strategic points of the terrorists and places where they are concentrated," military spokesman Oleksiy Dmytrashkovsky was quoted as saying by the Inter-fax news agency.

Dmytrashkovsky said rebels had fired on a Su-25 attack aircraft, damaging it, but the plane had manage to land safely at its air base. He denied a rebel report that a military helicopter had been brought down.

The Defense Ministry confirmed that Ukrainian forces had launched attacks on the rebels "from the air and land". "The terrorists' plan to significantly escalate armed confrontation has been disrupted and the threat of losses to the civilian population and service personnel has been liquidated," the ministry said on its website.

Poroshenko dismissed Moscow's offers to defuse the crisis and accused the rebels of failing to keep to the truce or follow a peace plan he had outlined.

Meanwhile, Moscow expressed regret over Ukraine's decision to renew the military offensive and urged its foreign partners to stop using the former Soviet republic as a pawn in geopolitical games.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Poroshenko's decision not to renew the cease-fire "causes deep regret" and blamed unidentified outside forces for scuppering the peace talks.

"We once again urge (partners) to stop using Ukraineasa bargaining chip in geopolitical games," it said, adding that calls to clamp down on protests with force were "criminal".

In what appeared to be a veiled reference to the United States, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement: "There is an impression that the change in Kiev's position ... could not have come about without influence from abroad, despite the position of leading EU member states."

AFP - Reuters

(China Daily 07/02/2014 page12)

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