Ukraine crisis: Kiev launches dramatic air strike on pro-Russian rebels in Donetsk airport

Petro Poroshenko vows to restore order in east Ukraine

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The Independent Online

Ukraine has launched an air strike on pro-Russian militiamen who seized an airport in Donetsk just hours after president-elect Petro Poroshenko vowed to crackdown on insurgents.

Reporters on the ground saw three Mi-24 helicopter gunships fire rockets and cannon at Donetsk's Sergei Prokofiev International Airport and a thick cloud of black smoke emerging from the area in a show of force against pro-Russian rebels.

A spokesperson for the Ukrainian joint forces security operation told Reuters two Sukhoi Su-25 jets, an Mi-24 helicopter and a team of paratroopers took part in the operation after insurgents ignored a 1pm deadline to put their weapons down and leave. So far, there are no confirmed reports of casualties.

The operation comes just hours after the billionaire confectioner Poroshenko, known as the 'Chocolate King', vowed to end the "war and chaos" in the east after exit polls gave him a majority in Sunday's presidential elections and accused the rebels of turning east Ukraine "into Somalia".

"I will not let anyone do this to our state and I hope that Russia will support my approach," he added, insisting that he would not negotiate with "terrorists" preserving a "bandit state".

Today, Mr Poroshenko stressed that the anti-terrorist operation "cannot and should not last two or three months", stressing that military efforts must be more effective as Kiev moves to suppress the wave of insurgency.

Pro-Russian rebels have seized government building, declared independent "people's republics" in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in east Ukraine, and clashed with government forces since violence first erupted in April.

Meanwhile, Russia has said it is "ready for dialogue" and insisted that there is no need for the West to mediate between Kiev and Moscow. However, the Kremlin also warned Ukraine would be making a "colossal mistake" if it steps up military action against the rebels, arguing that respect must be "mutual".