Ukraine’s military said its forces killed as many as 200 rebels in fighting in Donetsk as dozens of tanks and other military vehicles crossed the border into Ukraine from Russia.
“Insurgents who were shelling Ukrainian troop positions at Donetsk Airport yesterday were killed by government troop artillery strikes,” Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said on its website. “Four separatist tanks, two armored personnel carriers, two howitzers, and an infantry combat vehicle were destroyed, and up to 200 insurgents were killed.”
The death toll, which couldn’t be independently confirmed, is the biggest reported number of troops or fighters killed since the start of a Sept. 5 truce. Earlier, the Ukrainian government said it had suffered more than 100 killed and about 600 wounded since the cease-fire came into force.
As tensions between the former Soviet republics threatened to escalate into open war, Ukraine’s army is preparing “for an adequate reaction,” military spokesman Andriy Lysenko told reporters in Kiev today. He said pro-Russian rebel shelling of government troops with grad missiles, mortars and artillery had killed five soldiers and wounded 16 in the last 24 hours.
The military standoff is coming to a head after Ukraine and its allies accused separatists of undermining peace efforts with Nov. 2 elections in Donetsk and Luhansk. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Nov. 5 that Ukraine’s “civil war” isn’t subsiding as cities continue to come under shelling and the civilian death toll rises. Putin denies that Russian forces are involved in the conflict.
“Russia continues to supply manpower and military vehicles to Ukraine’s Donbas,” Lysenko said. “Yesterday, 32 tanks, 16 howitzers, and 30 trucks with ammunition and manpower crossed the border from Russia” into the conflict-torn Luhansk region. Andrei Bobrun, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, wouldn’t immediately comment when reached by phone in Moscow.
The ruble rose 1.2 percent to 46.2955 per dollar at 16:12 p.m. in Moscow, after falling 4.1 percent yesterday. The Micex Index (INDEXCF) of stocks fell 0.4 percent.
Russia’s RIA Novosti state news service quoted Andrei Purgin, deputy premier of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, as saying that Ukraine had begun a large-scale offensive against the separatists in the east. Purgin said he sees “all-out war” and said Ukrainian forces had broken the Sept. 5 truce, according to RIA.
Putin discussed the deteriorating security situation in eastern Ukraine with Russia’s security council, Interfax news service said yesterday.
In August, according to NATO and Ukraine, Russian forces helped rebels in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions wage a counteroffensive to break out after they were encircled by Ukraine’s army.
North Atlantic Treaty Organization fighter jets intercepted a Russian military aircraft over the Baltic Sea, the latest in a series of similar incidents that have grown in frequency. F-16s based in the Baltic region intercepted a Russian IL-20 surveillance plane near Latvia’s territorial waters, Latvia’s army said yesterday on its Twitter account.
NATO says its jets have intercepted Russian aircraft 100 times this year, three times last year’s total.
Ukraine’s military said Russia’s air force had put some of its units on high alert. A spokesman for Russia’s armed forces said by phone that he wasn’t able to comment.
German NATO General Hans-Lothar Domroese was cited by Die Welt newspaper as saying the alliance may start holding bigger military drills on the territory of its eastern member states.
“Up until now, we’ve only held big training exercises with 25,000 to 40,000 troops in western NATO states,” Domroese said, as quoted by Welt. “I can well imagine that in the future we’ll also do so in eastern Europe and in the Baltics.”