Ukraine crisis: Moldova on high alert as fighting intensifies

Ukrainian government says 30 pro-Russian rebels killed in Slovyansk

Moldova’s government has put its borders on alert as violence intensifies in Ukraine with the death of 30 pro-Russian militants in battles with the army.

The Ukrainian government claimed the rebels were killed by troops near Slovyansk in what it called an “anti-terror” operation against militias occupying parts of the eastern city.

Four government troops also died and another 20 were injured during gun battles, the Interior Minister, Arsen Avakov, said.

Troops created a security cordon around the city on Sunday and moved in on Monday in an apparent attempt to trap pro-Russian forces.

The intervention came days after rebels shot down two Ukrainian helicopters in the outskirts of Slovyansk and another was brought down on Monday.

It is one of several Ukrainian cities where pro-Russian separatists have seized official buildings and many fear violence will escalate as the government continues its military crackdown.

Conflict has been spreading from the country’s east, erupting in the south-western Black Sea port of Odessa, where dozens of people were killed in riots last week.

It is less than 45 miles from Odessa, on the south coast, to the Moldovan border.

The country’s government put its borders on high alert on Monday, citing concerns about the escalating violence and deteriorating security situation in Ukraine.

President Nicolae Timofti, Prime Minister Iurie Leanca and Parliament speaker Igor Coreman said in a joint statement that security forces had been ordered “to take all necessary actions to ensure public order inside the country.”

Moldova, a former part of the Soviet Union, is sandwiched between Ukraine and Romania.

Much of its 750-mile border with Ukraine is controlled by pro-Russian groups and there are 1,500 Russian troops stationed in a separatist republic of Trans-Dniester, which recently asked to be united with Russia.

The Russian government has said it respects Moldova's territorial integrity in the past but leaders are concerned about unrest in Trans-Dniester. 

William Hague, the Foreign Minister, held talks with Moldovan authorities on Monday, and said the country should move forward with talks on closer ties to the European Union without being seen as a threat to Russia.

He said Britain is “strongly opposed to any external pressure or any violations of sovereignty and territorial integrity".

After the annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia, fears of the loss of more territories have grown.

Kiev authorities announced they were firing the acting governor in Odessa and replacing him with member of parliament, Ihor Palytsya. Odessa's police chief was also removed over the weekend.

The move in the predominantly Russian-speaking region came after 46 people died on Friday, many in a building fire, after a pro-Ukraine march descended into violent riots.

There are concerns that Odessa could be the next region to fall to pro-Russia forces - particularly after 67 people detained in Friday's rioting were released by police on Sunday under pressure from an angry crowd.

The central government attempted to boost confidence by sending in an elite national guard unit, which could be seen patrolling the streets.

In eastern Ukraine, Donetsk airport, south of Slovyansk, was closed on Tuesday but reopened later in the day.

In the afternoon, about 30 pro-Russia militants armed with automatic rifles and grenade launchers surrounded an Interior Ministry base in the region, demanding that the troops inside not join any government operations against pro-Russia forces.

While it was unclear whether they would attack, besieging a government forces base marked a new offensive by the militants, who had previously focused on seizing police stations and government buildings.

Russia has blamed the interim Ukrainian government for the unrest.

During a meeting in Vienna with the Council of Europe on Tuesday, the Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov demanded that the Ukrainian government end its armed assaults on rebel strongholds.

He said he was open to another round of international talks to ease the crisis, but only if pro-Russia rebels were included.

“Those who protest ... want their voices heard,” he told reporters. “They want to have an equal voice when it comes to deciding the fate of their own country.”

His Ukrainian counterpart rejected the proposal, saying the Kiev government already represents all the people of Ukraine.

Additional reporting by PA and AP

Read more:
Helicopter shot down in fierce fighting
Attack on Slovyansk shatters hope for peace
Mercenaries, ready meals and M16
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Sport
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Amis: Taken to task over rash decisions and ill-judged statements
booksThe Zone of Interest just doesn't work, says James Runcie
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Corporate Tax Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL ...

Relationship Manager

£500 - £600 per day: Orgtel: Relationship Manager, London, Banking, Accountant...

Marketing & PR Assistant - NW London

£15 - £17 per hour: Ashdown Group: Marketing & PR Assistant - Kentish Town are...

Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer

£250 - £300 per day: Orgtel: Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer Berkshir...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home