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Ukraine Crisis

Breaking news, updates, and analysis on the uprising and crisis in Ukraine.

  • That's per the Polish ambassador in Washington
  • Newly elected Ukrainian leader will be in Warsaw next week. Will attend dinner with regional leaders and @BarackObama
  • Russia demanded on Thursday that the Ukrainian government stop its military operation against pro-Russian separatists and urged the United States and European Union to press Kiev to avert a "catastrophe" in the former Soviet republic.

    "We once again demand that the Kiev authorities stop the fratricidal war and start a real national dialogue," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding: "We again call on our Western partners to use all their influence on Kiev to stop Ukraine's slide into national catastrophe."

  • Ukraine military helicopter shot down; general among 14 dead

    Pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine shot down a government military helicopter Thursday amid heavy fighting around the eastern city of Slovyansk, killing 14 soldiers including a general, Ukraine's interim president said.

    Ukrainian leader Oleksandr Turchinov told the parliament in Kiev that rebels used a portable air defense missile to down the helicopter and said Gen. Volodymyr Kulchitsky was among the dead.

    "I have just received information that terrorists using Russian anti-aircraft missiles shot down our helicopter near Slovyansk. It had been ferrying servicemen for a change of duty," Turchinov said.

    Slovyansk has become the epicenter of fighting between pro-Russia insurgents and government forces in recent weeks. Located 100 miles from the Russian border, it has seen constant clashes and its residential areas have regularly come under mortar shelling from government forces, causing civilian casualties and prompting some residents to flee.

    The city of 120,000 in the Donetsk region of the country is one of the two provinces in eastern Ukraine, along with Luhansk, that have declared independence from the government in Kiev, though Ukrainian authorities reject the legitimacy of these moves.

    The Kiev government says that pro-Russian forces working in the east are led by "terrorists" bent on destroying the country and blames Russia for aiding the unrest. Russia denies the accusations, saying it has no influence over rebels, and insists it is only protecting the interests of Russian-speakers in Ukraine.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • Below is the official government statement on events in Slovyansk, which confirms that a helicopter was shot down and multiple Ukrainians were killed:

    According to some reports, May 29, about 12-30, near Slavonic Donetsk region, in the area of ​​ATO after unloading food, drop-off and change during the rotation of personnel in the fifth checkpoint helicopter MI-8 National Guard of Ukraine, turning in the opposite direction, came under fire, which was conducted with the forest, and was shot.

    As a result of the accident killed 12 people - six soldiers of the National Guard of Ukraine, including the crew of the helicopter, and six - members of the special forces of MIA of Ukraine. One soldier of the National Guard of Ukraine survived and is in a critical condition.

    Among the dead - the head of the military and special training of the National Guard of Ukraine, Major-General Sergei Kulchytsky.

    In response to acts of terrorism by the ATO was made artillery and air bombardments of the territory from which the fire was conducted as a result - a group of criminals involved in the attack, was destroyed.

    Detailed information on the victims set. Also under investigation by the competent authorities of a terrorist act.

    Commander and personnel of the National Guard of Ukraine brings sincere and deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims.

    Violence in eastern Ukraine has been escalating since Sunday's election, with an all-out battle being waged over the weekend at the airport in Donetsk. 
  • Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus have agreed to form a Eurasian Economic Union, formally creating the union the West has feared, Reuters reports.

    From Reuters:

    Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty with Kazakhstan and Belarus on Thursday creating a vast trading bloc which he hopes will challenge the economic might of the United States, the European Union and China.

    Putin denies the forging of the Eurasian Economic Union with two other former Soviet republics, coupled with Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, means he wants to rebuild a post-communist Soviet Union or as much of it as he can.

    He does, however, intend the alliance, with a market of 170 million people, a combined annual GDP of $2.7 trillion and vast energy riches, to demonstrate that Western sanctions imposed over the crisis in Ukraine will not isolate Russia.

    But the world's major economic powers may not be quaking in their boots.

    Ukraine has snubbed the union, other ex-Soviet states are wary of joining a body that could give Moscow leverage over them again and Kazakhstan fiercely defended its sovereignty during negotiations, forcing Putin to water down his ambitions.

    "Our meeting today of course has a special and, without exaggeration, an epoch-making significance," Putin said of the treaty, signed to loud applause from rows of seated officials in the modern Kazakh capital, Astana.

    "This document brings our countries to a new stage of integration while fully preserving the states' sovereignty."

    Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, seated at a long white table at which he, Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko signed the treaty, said he envisaged the new union as being a major competitive force.

    "The main mission of our union in the first half of the 21st century is ... first, to gain a natural competitive advantage as an economic bridge between the East and the West, between Europe and Asia," he said.

  • Vostok Battalion has besieged the DPR HQ. Thunder rolls overhead ominously.

  • Pro-Russian separatists are holding four monitors of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) who went missing in eastern Ukraine on Monday but are likely to release them soon, a rebel leader said on Thursday.

    Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, whose separatist group controls the town of Slaviansk, told Reuters the OSCE had been warned not to travel in the area, but had sent a four-man team out all the same.

    "They were detained. The reason for this was they should not come here and interfere because I warned them," he said by telephone.

    "We'll sort things out with them. We'll look at their documents and (then) let them go. Talks are going on with the OSCE," he said.

    "If we ask them not to go somewhere, they should take heed of our opinion," he said, adding that the monitors were being held somewhere south of Donetsk, the main regional hub.

    The team, which comprises a Dane, a Turk, an Estonian and a Swiss, are among a few hundred monitors sent to monitor compliance with an international accord for de-escalating the crisis in troubled eastern Ukraine, where separatists have seized control of strategic points in several towns.

    The Vienna-based OSCE is Europe's security watchdog. Russia and Ukraine are both members of the organisation.

  • Picture of tense standoff outside #Donetsk building. Vostok guys from Russia accusing locals in HQ of looting

  • Relatives of men drafted into the army hold placards and shout slogans during a rally to demand their return in Kiev May 29, 2014. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters)

  • Pro-Russian separatists on Thursday shot down a Ukrainian military helicopter in eastern Ukraine and 14 people on board, including a general, were killed, acting President Oleksander Turchinov told parliament.

    "I have just received information that terrorists using Russian anti-aircraft missiles shot down our helicopter near Slaviansk. It had been ferrying servicemen for a change of duty," Turchinov said.

  • A Ukrainian military helicopter was shot down by rebels Thursday over Slovyansk amid heavy fighting around the insurgent-held city in eastern Ukraine.

    Slovyansk has become the epicenter of fighting between pro-Russia insurgents and government forces in recent weeks. The city — located 100 miles (160 kilometers) west of the Russian border — has seen constant clashes and its residential areas have regularly come under mortar shelling from government forces, prompting some residents to flee.

    An Associated Press reporter witnessed the helicopter's downing Thursday. It wasn't immediately clear what weapons the rebels used to shoot it down, exactly where the helicopter fell or what happened to its crew.

    The Kiev government condemns the insurgency roiling the east as the work of "terrorists" bent on destroying the country and blames Russia for fomenting it. Russia denies the accusations, saying it has no influence over rebels, who insist they are only protecting the interests of the Russian-speaking population of the east. Still, fighters from Russia, including the battled-hardened region of Chechnya, have been appearing recently in the ranks of the separatists.

    Also Thursday, an insurgent leader in eastern Ukraine said his fighters are holding four observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and promised that they would be released imminently.

    Vyacheslav Ponomarev, the self-proclaimed "people's mayor" of Slovyansk, a city in the Donetsk region, told The Associated Press the monitors — who are from Turkey, Switzerland, Estonia and Denmark — were safe.

    "I addressed the OSCE mission to warn them that their people should not over the coming week travel in areas under our control. And they decided to show up anyway," Ponomarev said.

    "We will deal with this and then release them," he said, without setting any specific timeframe.

    The OSCE said it had lost contact with one of its four-man monitoring teams in Donetsk on Monday evening. Rebels have previously kidnapped military observers working under the auspices of the OSCE.

    The OSCE monitors have been deployed to Ukraine to monitor security situation following Russia's annexation of Crimea and a pro-Russia separatist insurgency that has engulfed regions in eastern Ukraine. They also observed Sunday's presidential vote, won by billionaire candy magnate Petro Poroshenko.

    Poroshenko has promised to negotiate with people in the east, where insurgents have seized government buildings and fought government troops for a month-and-half. But he also vowed to continue a military operation to uproot the armed rebels and bring it to a quick end.

    In the most ferocious battle yet, rebels in Donetsk tried to take control of its airport Monday but were repelled by Ukrainian forces using combat jets and helicopter gunships. Dozens of men were killed and some morgues were overflowing Tuesday. Some insurgent leaders said up to 100 fighters may have been killed.

    The mood in Donetsk was calm Thursday, although many businesses have stopped opening their doors over fear of renewed fighting.

    The rebels have declared the Donetsk and Luhansk regions independent of Ukraine. They have pleaded to join Russia, but President Vladimir Putin has ignored their appeal in an apparent bid to de-escalate tensions with the West and avoid a new round of Western sanctions.

    Putin has supported an OSCE peace plan that calls for ending hostilities and launching a political dialogue. Russia also said it would be ready to work with new leader Poroshenko, but strongly urged the Ukrainian government to end its military operation in the east.

    Chechnya's Moscow-backed leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, on Wednesday rejected allegations he had sent his paramilitary forces to Ukraine, but said he can't stop fellow Chechens acting on their own from joining the fight.

    [The Associated Press]
  • The United Nations Security Council is holding a meeting at 3 p.m. ET on Wednesday about Ukraine. 

    Below is the agenda:



    Wednesday 28 May 2014 


     7184th meeting - Security Council Chamberm.00 a.10.
    1. Adoption of the agenda
    2. Briefings by Chairmen of subsidiary bodies of the Security Council

    - 7185th meeting - Security Council Chamber
    m.00 p.3.
    1. Adoption of the agenda
    2. Letter dated 28 February 2014 from the Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations addressed to the President of the Security Council (S/2014/136)

    Afternoon* - Consultations of the whole (closed) - Consultations Room

    - Mali 
    - Other matters

  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during a telephone conversation on Wednesday that Ukraine's interim government must stop its military operation in southeastern Ukraine, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

    Lavrov "underscored the need for an immediate halt by Kiev of the punitive operation in the southeastern regions and for the swiftest possible launch of a nationwide dialog, including direct talks with representatives of the southeast, in the interests of a peaceful solution," the ministry said.

  • VICE News was in Donetsk for the battle over the airport and produced a video, and story, documenting the fighting.

    From VICE News:

    Only hours after Petro Poroshenko was announced the winner of Ukraine's presidential elections, the worst violence of the two month long crisis in eastern Ukraine exploded at Donetsk' Sergei Prokofiev airport.

    Early on Monday morning, gunmen of the Donetsk Peoples Republic arrived at the airport and took over the terminal building, prompting the Ukrainian military based there to issue an ultimatum to the rebels to lay down their weapons and leave. A massive firefight broke out which both fighter jets and attack helicopters were used by the Ukrainian military. The sound of gunfire and explosions filled the air as rebels and journalists ducked for cover along the access road to the airport terminal.

    VICE News found a small unit of DPR gunmen among the trees along the access road who had pulled back from their earlier positions closer to the airport. Gunfire seemed to follow them as shots hit the wall on the other side of the road and one of their wounded fighters, who had been shot in the upper thigh was evacuated in a civilian car. The gunfire intensified and the unit was forced to withdraw.

  • Russia's Gazprom says Ukraine to owe $5.2 billion for gas exports

    Russia’s leading gas company turned up the pressure on Ukraine over back payments Wednesday, noting that more than $5 billion would soon be owed — raising the prospect that taps may soon be turned off at a time when the Kiev government struggles to contain civil unrest in the east.

    If no payment is received by June 7, Ukraine will be in debt to the tune of $5.2 billion, the CEO of state-controlled Russian gas exporter Gazprom, Alexei Miller, said during a meeting in Germany.

    Gazprom says Ukraine owes in excess of $3.5 billion, and has threatened to stop supplying the country with gas if it fails to make a pre-payment for June supplies by June 2. Miller told Russian President Vladimir Putin that Ukraine would consume a total of 3.5 billion cubic meters of Russian gas in May worth around $1.7 billion, increasing Kiev's gas bill.

    Subsequently on Wednesday, Putin responded to the ongoing dispute over gas prices by saying he hoped to settle a dispute that threatens Russia’s lucrative gas supplies to Europe.

    In televised remarks at a cabinet session in Moscow, Putin signaled that Russia could negotiate new terms for gas shipments to Ukraine if it pays off part of its debt.

    At the heart of the dispute is the gas price being set by Russia. Kiev is seeking to change a 2009 contract that locked it into buying a set volume of gas, whether it needs it or not, at the highest price paid by any client in Europe.

    Moscow dropped the price after Ukraine's then-President Viktor Yanukovych turned his back on a trade and association agreement with the European Union last year, but reinstated the original price after he was ousted in February.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • The United Nations provided the following summary of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's telephone conversation with Ukrainian President-elect Petro Poroshenko:

    The Secretary-General spoke this morning to Mr. Petro Poroschenko, the President-elect of Ukraine. 

    The Secretary-General congratulated Mr. Poroschenko on having received a strong mandate from the people, who expect him to move quickly to steer the country away from political, economic and social instability and towards security, greater prosperity and genuine democratic governance.

    The Secretary-General said that he was encouraged by Mr. Poroschenko’s commitment to de-escalation and dialogue which will be critical within Ukraine, as well as with its neighbours.

  • Speaking from Berlin, Ukrainian Prime Minister Yatsenyuk says, we ask Russia and Putin to block the border to Ukraine to stop 'terrorists,' Reuters reports.
  • French President Hollande has invited Ukrainian President-elect Poroshenko for D-Day commemoration, Reuters reports.
  • During his commencement address at West Point, an appearance that was actually used as a major foreign policy speech, President Obama discussed the crisis in Ukraine and the world's current relationship with Russia:

    In Ukraine, Russia’s recent actions recall the days when Soviet tanks rolled into Eastern Europe. But this isn’t the Cold War. Our ability to shape world opinion helped isolate Russia right away. Because of American leadership, the world immediately condemned Russian actions. Europe and the G-7 joined with us to impose sanctions. NATO reinforced our commitment to Eastern European allies. The IMF is helping to stabilize Ukraine’s economy. OSCE monitors brought the eyes of the world to unstable parts of Ukraine. This mobilization of world opinion and institutions served as a counterweight to Russian propaganda, Russian troops on the border, and armed militias. This weekend, Ukrainians voted by the millions; yesterday, I spoke to their next President. We don’t know how the situation will play out, and there will be grave challenges. But standing with our allies on behalf of international order has given a chance for the Ukrainian people to choose their future. 

    This is American leadership. This is American strength. In each case, we built coalitions to respond to a specific challenge. Now we need to do more to strengthen the institutions that can anticipate and prevent them from spreading. For example, NATO is the strongest alliance the world has ever known. But we are now working with NATO allies to meet new missions – within Europe, where our Eastern allies must be reassured; and also beyond Europe’s borders, where our NATO allies must pull their weight to counter-terrorism, respond to failed states, and train a network of partners.


    Likewise, the UN provides a platform to keep the peace in states torn apart by conflict. Now we need to make sure that those nations who provide peace-keepers have the training and equipment to keep the peace, so that we can prevent the type of killing we have seen in Congo and Sudan. We are deepening our investment in countries that support these missions. Because having other nations maintain order in their own neighborhoods lessens the need for us to put our own troops in harm’s way. It is a smart investment. It’s the right way to lead.


    Keep in mind, not all international norms relate directly to armed conflict. In the face of cyber-attacks, we are working to shape and enforce rules of the road to secure our networks and citizens. In the Asia Pacific, we are supporting Southeast Asian nations as they negotiate a code of conduct with China on the South China Sea, and are working to resolve territorial and maritime disputes through international law. That spirit of cooperation must energize the global effort to combat climate change – a creeping national security crisis that will help shape your time in uniform, as we’re called on to respond to refugee flows, natural disasters, and conflicts over water and food. That’s why, next year, I intend to make sure America is out front in a global framework to preserve our planet. 

    President Obama's speech at West Point continues his trend of calling on Russia to follow international norms set by the United Nations and urging international partners to stay the course in their opposition to Russia. 
  • McDonald's in central #Donetsk closed "to ensure safety of workers and visitors."

  • Separatist leader Borodai regarding #Donetsk airport gun battle: #Ukraine military suffered the same loss as our side, perhaps more.
  • Ukraine will owe Russia $5.2 billion for natural gas as of June 7 if it makes no payments by that date, the CEO of state-controlled Russian gas exporter Gazprom, Alexei Miller, said on Wednesday.

    Gazprom says Ukraine now owes more than $3.5 billion, and has threatened to stop supplying the neighboring former Soviet republic with gas if it fails to make a pre-payment for June supplies by June 2.

  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that the Ukrainian people were "in essence being pushed into the abyss of fratricidal war", Interfax news agency reported.

    Lavrov repeated Russia's calls for an end to the interim Ukrainian government's military action against pro-Russian separatists in eastern provinces and for dialogue.

  • An 'uneasy calm' has returned to the streets in eastern Ukraine following a weekend of political upheaval and violence, Reuters reports. 

    From Reuters:

    Uneasy calm returned to the streets of Donetsk on Wednesday after the biggest battle of a pro-Russian separatist uprising in eastern Ukraine, a conflict transformed by the landslide election of a pro-European leader who has vowed to crush the revolt.

    Government forces killed dozens of rebel fighters on Monday and Tuesday in an assault to retake the airport, which the rebels had seized the morning after Ukrainians overwhelmingly elected Petro Poroshenko as president.

    Pro-Moscow gunmen have declared the city of a million people capital of an independent Donetsk People's Republic.

    After the government assault - the first time Kiev has unleashed its full military force against the fighters after weeks of restraint - morgues were filled with bodies of rebel gunmen. Some were missing limbs in a sign of the massive firepower used against them.

    The separatist authorities say as many as 50 died, including a truckload of wounded fighters blasted apart as they were driven away from the battlefield. The government said it suffered no losses in the operation, which saw its aircraft strafe the airport and paratroops land to reclaim it.

    Poroshenko, a billionaire confectionary magnate who became the first Ukrainian since 1991 to win the presidency outright in a single round of voting, repeated his promise to restore government control rapidly over secessionist-held areas.

    “We are in a state of war in the east. Crimea is occupied by Russia and there is great instability. We must react,” he told Germany's Bild newspaper. “The anti-terrorist operation has finally begun in earnest. We will no longer permit these terrorists to kidnap and shoot people, occupy buildings or suspend the law. We will put an end to these horrors – a real war is being waged against our country.

    His swift offensive has thrown down a challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who made defending Russians in other parts of the former Soviet Union a pillar of his rule since declaring his right to use military force in Ukraine in March.

    Moscow has demanded Kiev halt the military operation in the east, but Putin has also announced the withdrawal of tens of thousands of troops he had massed on the frontier. A NATO officer said on Wednesday thousands of Russian troops had indeed been pulled out, although tens of thousands were still in place.

    Moscow says it is willing to work with Poroshenko but has no plans for him to visit for talks. It denies accusations by Kiev and Western countries that it is behind the rebellion.

    “I have no doubt that Putin could end the fighting using his direct influence,” Poroshenko said. “I definitely want to speak with Putin and hold talks to stabilize the situation.”  

    While some sense of calm may have returned, the military presence has not lessened. Photos taken by those in the area show military trucks crowding the area and NATO reported Wednesday morning that thousands of Russian troops remain near the Ukraine border. 
  • Rebel truck hit by #Ukraine military helo gunfire & flipped on side has been brought to rebel roadblock near airport

  • Separatists remain resolute in Ukraine after elections and bombardments

    By: Noah Sneider

    HORLIVKA, Ukraine — The funeral procession last weekend for Aleksandr Politov snaked through the wooded lanes of an overgrown cemetery to the plot where the men of the Novorossiya Army buried their comrade. Soldiers fired three salutes from rifles, but few in the civilian crowd of hundreds flinched. They have become used to the sound of gunshots.

    “You had a friend, and then — poof — he’s gone,” said Artem Chernushkin, a barman and a neighbor of Politov’s in Horlivka. “He was a regular guy, a construction worker who carried tiles and laid bricks, the most regular guy. He was a builder, not a fighter.”

    Yet Politov, whose corpse was dressed in camouflage and draped with a Russian tricolor flag, had recently joined a separatist militia and died last week during an attack on a Ukrainian army position outside the town of Volnovakha. Infected with a malignant mix of Russian propaganda and genuine resentment, people like Politov have fueled the creation of the Donetsk People’s Republic, an inchoate statelet at the forefront of eastern Ukraine’s continuing unrest.

    The movement’s military wing, often called the Novorossiya Army by its members, has demonstrated an ability to impose control over territory but largely operates as an informal conglomerate of warlords and militias. Its political leaders speak of resisting the Kiev government, which they regularly call a junta, and preach a program based on vague promises to clean up corruption and eventually join the Russian Federation.

    Ukraine’s new president-elect, the confectionery magnate Petro Poroshenko, has pledged to end the slide toward civil war, comparing the separatists to Somali pirates and announcing that his first steps in office will include a trip to Donetsk, the regional capital.

    "The anti-terrorist operation should not last two or three months,” Poroshenko told reporters in Kiev on Monday. “It should last for a matter of hours.”

    As he spoke, the Ukrainian army had launched an assault on the Donetsk airport, deploying air and ground forces against rebels who had seized a terminal overnight. Fighter jets and explosions echoed over the city for hours, and the violence left dozens dead in the most intense clash since the separatist movement emerged in March.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin will discuss the crisis in Ukraine with French President Francois Hollande in Paris on June 5, his first meeting with a major Western leader since Moscow annexed Crimea.

    A Kremlin foreign policy aide said on Wednesday the talks would be held in the French leader's Elysee Palace on the eve of World War Two anniversary events taking place in the French city of Deauville.

    Putin, U.S. President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are all expected to be in Deauville but the aide, Yuri Ushakov, made no mention of any other leaders attending the talks in Paris.

    He told a news briefing that Putin might have contact with other leaders while in Deauville, but that any other meetings would be informal.

    Ushakov said the talks with Hollande would cover "fundamental international and bilateral issues, including the Ukraine crisis." He gave no other details.

    Although Putin has frequently spoken to foreign heads of state and government by telephone since the start of the Ukraine crisis, his last known meeting with a Western leader was during the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

    His last foreign trip to meet Western leaders was a visit to Brussels for talks with European Union leaders in January.

    The European Union and the United States have imposed sanctions on Russia over its annexation of the Crimea peninsula in March, but the push for new punitive measures by Europe has slowed since Ukraine's presidential election on Sunday.

    France has also said that Russia's actions in Ukraine could endanger a 1.2 billion euro ($1.63 billion) helicopter carrier deal signed in 2011 to boost Russia's military modernisation.

  • Russia has withdrawn thousands of troops from near the Ukraine border, but tens of thousands remain, a NATO military officer said on Wednesday.

    "A number of (Russian) units have now withdrawn from the border. The activity we are observing continues to suggest a slow withdrawal of forces," the officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.

    "At present, much of the previously deployed Russian force remains in the vicinity of the border and continues to be capable of operations at short notice. Thousands of troops have withdrawn, but tens of thousands remain," he said.

    NATO has previously estimated that Russia had around 40,000 soldiers close to the Ukraine border.

  • Central #Donetsk a ghost town this evening. Some shops even boarded up their windows. Eerie how quiet, empty it is.

  • Donetsk pro-Russian rebels reeling after airport routing

    By: Sabra Ayers

    DONETSK, Ukraine — The masked separatist fighter standing outside the morgue of Kalinina hospital was visibly agitated as he clutched his automatic rifle and recalled how 30 of his colleagues died earlier on Tuesday morning after hours of battling the Ukrainian military.

    “They were the wounded being taken off the battlefield when the fascists fired down on their truck,” said the man, who refused to give his name or take off the ski mask hiding his face and whose claims could not be independently verified.

    Whatever the true details of the fighting, there was little doubt of the cost. In the morgue behind him, there were piles of dead fighters in fatigues on the floor, sometimes three on top of one another. Some were missing limbs. More corpses were on the examination tables in the main room of the morgue, where workers said they were past capacity and could take no more bodies.

    “We will seek revenge all the way to Kiev and then take that too,” said the masked man, in a sleeveless black T-shirt and camouflage pants. “The Donbas will never forgive this action.”

    Pro-Russian separatists estimated that they lost as many as 50 men in heavy fighting with Ukrainian forces in the last 24 hours as the two sides battled for control over the regional airport in Donetsk. The mayor, Oleksandr Lukyanchenko, estimated that those losses were closer to 40, including two civilians caught in crossfire.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • Al Jazeera America has compiled some startling images from this weekend's intense fighting in Donetsk:

    The skirmish reached into the streets surrounding the airport. Here, pro-Russian gunmen take positions nearby. (Vadim Ghirda/AP) 

    A Ukrainian helicopter fires on positions held by pro-Russian forces at the airport. (Yannis Behrakis/Reuters)  

    A local man looks at damage near a truck used by supporters of the self-proclaimed 'Donetsk People's Republic' on a road leading to the Donetsk airport on Tuesday, May 27, 2014. (Maxim Shipenkov/EPA)

    See more at Al Jazeera America
  • The White House provided the following summary of President Obama's congratulatory phone call with Ukraine's President-elect Poroshenko:

    President Obama called President-elect Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine today to congratulate him on his victory and offer the full support of the United States as he seeks to unify and move his country forward.  The President stressed the importance of quickly implementing the reforms necessary for Ukraine to bring the country together and to develop a sustainable economy, attractive investment climate, and transparent and accountable government that is responsive to the concerns and aspirations of all Ukrainians.  The United States will continue assisting Ukraine in these efforts.  The two leaders agreed to continue their conversation during the President’s upcoming trip to Europe. 
  • President Obama called President-elect Petro Poroshenko of #Ukraine today to congratulate him. Readout forthcoming.
  • A Danish minister says believes the four missing OSCE monitors in Ukraine, including one Dane, are being held by separatists, Reuters reports.
  • Russian troops may be slowly pulling back from near the Ukraine border, although the bulk of the force remains close to the frontier for now, a NATO military officer said on Tuesday.

    "NATO has observed some continued Russian troop activity in the vicinity of the border with Ukraine over the past days. There is some evidence of equipment and supplies being packed or prepared for movement in certain locations," the officer said.

    "The activity we are observing at present could suggest a slow or staged withdrawal of forces. At present, the bulk of the previously deployed Russian force remains in the vicinity of the border," the officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.

  • As eastern Ukraine continues to spiral into violence, Vox's Max Fisher asks, Is Russian President Putin losing control of pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine?

    From Vox:

    Fighting in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, where pro-Russia separatist rebels have held control for weeks, rapidly worsened on Monday. The rebels attacked and seized the city's airport and fought for hours with the Ukrainian military, which appeared to finally push them out of the airport but not out of Donetsk. The fighting is so far inconclusive, but it indicates that the violence is getting a lot worse, putting eastern Ukraine a little bit closer to the full-blown guerrilla conflict that has seemed like an unlikely but dangerous risk.

    So it's clear that the violence in itself is bad news. What's not clear is why the violence is getting worse and what it means for the Ukraine conflict. But it seems most likely that the pro-Russia insurgency is increasingly breaking away from Moscow's control and taking on a life of its own. If true, that would be both good and bad for the Ukraine conflict, but more than anything it would be dangerous.

    It's probably no coincidence that the fighting occurred on the same day as Ukraine's national election, which is a major symbolic defeat for the pro-Russia rebels and for Moscow, which is widely suspected to give the rebels at least some support. The national vote has elected a new prime minister who is less sympathetic to Russia than his predecessor and who has been vilified in Kremlin media; the election also formalizes the removal of now-exiled pro-Moscow Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in protests that set off the crisis.

    The big question right now is whether the pro-Russia militias attacked the airport at Moscow's behest or did it against Moscow's wishes. Either case is bad.

    If the rebels attacked under Kremlin orders, which Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia suggested could be a show of Moscow's disapproval of Ukraine electing an unfriendly new prime minister, then that would signal that Russia's recent conciliation with Ukraine was just an act and that it plans to continue fomenting disorder.

    What seems perhaps more likely is that the pro-Russia rebels, buying into their own propaganda, are stepping away from Moscow's control and staged today's attack in spite of the Kremlin's recent efforts to make nice with Ukraine. It seems likelier because Russia's official stance, as well as that unofficially communicated through state media, has softened so dramatically on Ukraine in the last two weeks. This softening has been a bit of an embarrassment for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is not someone who tends to embrace international embarrassments easily. The rebels sowing violence in eastern Ukraine may be pro-Russia, but today's attack may indicate what has looked increasingly likely for some time: that they are getting further from Moscow's influence.

  • Dozens killed in eastern Ukraine fighting as Kiev sends in air force

    The bodies of at least 30 pro-Russian rebels have been brought to a hospital in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk following a day of heavy fighting in which government forces deployed combat jets and helicopter gunships, separatist sources said Tuesday.

    The rebel-held city of 1 million people has been engulfed in fighting since Monday when rebels moved to seize the airport, Ukraine's second-largest. Kiev responded with its harshest crackdown operation yet, just a day after President-elect Petro Poroshenko vowed to wipe out the country's separatist movement in a matter of "hours."

    Intensive gunfire raged throughout the day and into the night, as plumes of black smoke rose into the air and officials shut down the Donetsk airport and nearby streets to traffic amid the fighting. Leonid Baranov, a leader of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic, said about 30 bodies had been brought to the Kalinin morgue, but Associated Press reporters could not immediately count them or confirm Baranov’s statement.

    Alexander Lukyanchenko, mayor of Donetsk, said later Tuesday the total number of the dead had reached at least 40, including two civilians, but he was not sure how many of the rest were the rebels, Reuters reported.

    Lukyanchenko also went on television advising residents to stay at home.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • The OSCE announced Tuesday morning it had lost contact with one of its monitoring teams in Donetsk. Below is a statement from the monitoring organization concerning the team:

    On Monday evening at around 18:00 OSCE Special Monitoring Mission lost contact with one of its Donetsk-based teams.

    The team was on a routine patrol east of Donetsk when contact was lost. We have been unable to re-establish communication until now. The team consists of four international SMM members.

    We are continuing with our efforts and utilizing our contacts on the ground. The Ukrainian Government as well as regional authorities have been informed of the situation.

    Any further pertinent information will be shared as soon as possible.

  • An #OSCE spokesman tells me the 4 missing monitors are Turkish, Swiss, Estonian and Danish & all of them are men. #Ukraine #Donetsk
  • Several 100s meters from airport, about as close as can get. No gunfire, but tense. Car w/ ~10 gunmen parked nearby.

  • European security watchdog OSCE said on Tuesday it had lost contact with one of its teams of monitors near the town of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian militants are clashing with Kiev government forces.

    The four-strong international team was on a routine patrol east of Donetsk when contact was lost on Monday evening, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said.

    "We have been unable to re-establish communication until now," it said in a statement.

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