FoxNews on May 3, 2014, reported that Ukraine resumed a military offensive against pro-Russian forces in the country’s east on Saturday, as military observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe who were held for more than a week were released.
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said Ukrainian forces had seized control of a television tower in Kramatorsk, near the rebel stronghold of Slovyansk where at least three were killed in fighting on Friday, Reuters reported. Excerpts below:
“We are not stopping,” Avakov wrote on his Facebook page early Saturday.
News reports claimed additional fighting broke out in the city of Kramatorsk, south of Slovyansk, on Saturday.
Tensions were especially high after at least 42 people died in clashes between government supporters and opponents in the Black Sea port of Odessa on Friday. The clash began with street fighting between two sides in which at least three people were reported killed by gunfire, then turned into a grisly conflagration when government opponents took refuge in a building that caught fire after protesters threw firebombs inside.
Meanwhile, insurgent leader Vyacheslav Ponomarev announced Saturday that all seven military observers and their five Ukrainian assistants had been released.
An observer from Sweden was also seized as part of the team, but was released earlier. Unlike the other observers’ countries, Sweden is not a member of NATO.
One of the observers, German Col. Axel Schneider, told The Associated Press that all 12 of the detainees held up well.
“They had a very good attitude and that gave them the strength to stand the situation,” he said.
Those held included three other Germans and one soldier each from Poland, Denmark and the Czech Republic.
Oleksandr Turchynov, Ukraine’s acting president, said many insurgents were killed or wounded Friday in the eastern offensive that also underlined the military’s vulnerability. The military action came two days after Kiev said it had lost control of eastern Ukraine.
By nightfall, Ukrainian troops and armored personnel carriers blocked all major roads into Slovyansk, and the central part of the city remained in the hands of pro-Russia gunmen, according to Associated Press journalists inside. Most shops were closed, and the few that were open were crowded with customers stocking up on supplies.
Sporadic gunfire was heard in Slovyansk’s downtown late Friday,…
The Ukrainian Security Service said one helicopter was downed with a surface-to-air missile, adding that the sophisticated weapon undercut Russia’s claims the city of 125,000 people was simply under the control of armed locals.
“Ukrainian security forces so far are not ready for large-scale military actions; moreover, such actions could provoke Russia’s invasion,” said Kiev-based political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko.