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Ukrainian troops ‘retake’ Donetsk airport from rebels

Anatoli Stepanov, AFP file picture | Ukrainian troops fire a mortar at the position of pro-Russian separatists

Ukrainian troops have retaken most of the territory of Donetsk airport in eastern Ukraine after launching a “mass operation” overnight to Sunday and wresting control of it from pro-Russian separatists, an army spokesman said.


“The decision was taken for a mass operation... We succeeded in almost completely cleaning the territory of the airport, which belongs to the territory of Ukrainian forces as marked by military separation lines,” military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said.

At least six people were killed in the fighting that ensued, including four soldiers.

Lysenko said the operation had returned the battle lines near the airport to the previous status quo and that the Ukrainian army had therefore not violated the Minsk 12-point peace plan agreed with Russia and separatist leaders last September.

Nearby houses were destroyed by heavy shelling and electricity was cut for many homes and businesses as explosions repeatedly ripped through parts of the Donetsk region.

Some blasts were also heard closer to the city centre, and Donetsk officials reported "massive damage to housing stock, infrastructure and communications of the city".

"All night, shells flew over our house," said Margarita, 24, a resident of the city's northwest. "This morning windows broke from the trembling – [it was} very scary”.

Another resident who lives a couple of kilometres from the airport said a children's hospital had been damaged.

The conflict that broke out in Ukraine's eastern industrial heartland in April 2014 has left more than 4,800 people dead.

Ukraine and Western nations say Russia has supported the rebels with troops and weapons, charges Moscow strongly denies despite witness claims to the contrary.

Russia is under heavy sanctions from the West over its actions in Ukraine, and the UN Security Council plans to meet on Wednesday to discuss the flare-up of violence.


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