Ukraine crisis: At least 14 soldiers reported dead after checkpoint attack

 

donetsk

At least 14 Ukrainian soldiers were killed and more than 30 wounded in the deadliest attack on government forces since fighting began in the east of Ukraine almost two months ago.

The attack took place at a checkpoint in the village of Blahodatne, 20 miles from the city of Donetsk, as tensions were running high in the troubled east of Ukraine ahead of presidential elections on Sunday. Kiev has accused Russia of trying to destabilise the country before the vote.

Journalists from Associated Press reported seeing bodies scattered on the road. Photographs showed three charred Ukrainian armoured personnel carriers with their turrets blown away. Other burnt-out vehicles were also visible.

The attack, at dawn, was believed to have been the work of pro-Russian rebels. At a separatist-held police headquarters in Horlivka, a town near the checkpoint, a man describing himself as a rebel commander told journalists his forces were responsible. “We destroyed a checkpoint of the fascist Ukrainian army deployed on the land of the Donetsk Republic,” the balaclava-wearing commander said, giving his name as Bess, which means “demon” in Russian. He showed reporters weapons which he claimed had been taken from the dead Ukrainian soldiers.

 

The attack at Blahodatne was one of several reported overnight in eastern Ukraine. Ukraine’s interim Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, called for an emergency session of the UN Security Council and blamed Russia for fomenting the crisis. According to UN estimates, 127 people have died in the violence in the east and south of Ukraine.

Russia has yet again said that it is pulling back its forces from the Ukrainian border, where Nato estimates it has 40,000 men stationed. The Russian defence ministry said four trainloads of weapons and 15 aircraft had already left the area.

The Nato Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, cautiously confirmed the troop movements. “We’ve seen limited Russian troop activity vicinity of Ukraine border that MAY suggest that some of these forces are preparing to withdraw”, he wrote on his Twitter account. “Most of previously deployed Russian force remains near the Ukrainian border. We see continued Russian exercises.”

Separatists in Donetsk say they will boycott Sunday’s presidential elections, saying they do not recognise the legitimacy of the vote.

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