“We Will Not Stop”: Ukraine says it is ‘Essentially at War’ With Rebel Eastern Regions

Ukrainian soldiers near Slavyansk, Eastern Ukraine, on May 2, 2014. (Photographer: Genya Savilov/AFP via Getty Images)
Ukrainian soldiers near Slavyansk, Eastern Ukraine, on May 2, 2014. (Photographer: Genya Savilov/AFP via Getty Images)

Ukrainian forces pressed their assault on separatists today and the head of the anti-terrorist center warned eastern regions are “essentially” at war, even as OSCE hostages were released.

The Ukrainian anti-terrorist operation in the Donetsk region left five dead and 12 wounded, said the center’s chief, Vasyl Krutov. Government forces secured Slovyansk as operations in Kramatorsk continued, he said. Another 42 people were killed and 125 were injured in a building fire and street battle in Odessa that began last night when pro-Russians attacked marching football fans and a pro-Ukrainian rally.

“What is happening in the east is not a short-term action, this is essentially a war,” Krutov said today.

Open clashes are sweeping Ukraine’s east, from Donetsk near the Russian border to Odessa, about 100 miles from the European Union’s southeastern frontier in Romania, amid signs the industrial and coastal regions are slipping out of the Kiev government’s control. The U.S. and the European Union accuse Russia of fomenting the unrest, while Russian President Vladimir Putin is “extremely concerned” and is studying the situation, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov, said today.

In a day of continued violence, in which the airport at Kramatorsk was wrested back from pro-Russian separatists, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe observers were freed and were being delivered to the Council of Europe in Slovyansk near Donetsk, the council said today in a statement.

Forced Confrontation

“We, Ukrainians, are now constantly pushed into confrontation, into civil conflicts and to ruination of the country from inside,” said acting President Oleksandr Turchynov on his website today. “We cannot allow this to happen and have to be united in our fight with a foreign enemy who wants to destroy Ukraine.”

In other action, eight armed men with guns attacked a national guard patrol last night in Donetsk seeking to gain intelligence about the unit, the number of people and weapons, the Interior ministry reported on its website.

And in Crimea, now under control of Russia, the head of the ethnic Crimean Tatar assembly was denied entrance to his homeland, according to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, which called the ban “oppression.”

A pro-unity rally in Kharkiv set for tomorrow was canceled after the violence in Odessa, organizers said on Facebook.

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SOURCE: Kateryna Choursina, Henry Meyer and Ilya Arkhipov