Three pro-Russian militants were killed as Ukrainian troops repelled an overnight attack by some 300 men on a National Guard base in the Black Sea port of Mariupol, Ukraine’s interior minister said Thursday.
At least 13 other pro-Moscow separatists were wounded during the clashes, in which some 300 men armed with with guns and petrol bombs attacked the base, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said in an online statement.
National Guard members fired warning shots but then opened fire as the attack continued, Avakov said.
"According to preliminary data, three attackers were killed, 13 wounded and 63 detained," Avakov said.
It is the single deadliest incident since pro-Russian separatist rebellions broke out in several areas of eastern Ukraine more than 10 days ago. Well-armed militants have seized regional administrative buildings and police stations in at least 10 towns in the region, including the country's second-largest city Kharkiv as well as Donetsk, Slaviansk and Mariupol.
Mariupol is located on the Sea of Azov in the southeast part of Ukraine.
The latest unrest came just hours before diplomats from Ukraine, the United States, the European Union and Russia prepared to meet for the first time Thursday in Geneva for talks on the escalating crisis that threatens to destabilise the new government in Kiev.
With Ukraine struggling to contain the uprising, the European Union and the United States have said they are readying additional sanctions against Moscow for fomenting the unrest in the country's largely Russian-speaking east.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have repeatedly denied Russia's direct involvement in separatist activities in east Ukraine.
Ukraine’s defence ministry said Wednesday that pro-Moscow militants had seized a column of Ukrainian armoured vehicles that had been sent to the country’s east in a bid to restore order.
The government in Kiev responded by disbanding the unit that lost the six vehicles.
"The 25th parachute brigade, members of which showed cowardice and gave up their weapons, will be demobilised and the guilty servicemen brought before court," acting President Oleksandr Turchinov told parliament on Thursday.
(FRANCE 24 with AP and REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-04-17