Ukraine crisis: Pro-Russian rebels take strategic port of Novoazovsk on the Azov Sea

Move raises fears the separatists are seeking to create a land link between Russia and Crimea

NOVOAZOVSK

Pro-Russian rebel forces entered a key town in south-eastern Ukraine today after three days of heavy shelling, the town’s mayor said, capturing new territory far from most of their battles with government troops.

The town of Novoazovsk lies in a strategically significant location – on the Azov Sea and on the road linking Russia to the Russian-annexed Crimean Peninsula. It was the first time in the four-month-long conflict that fighting has reached as far south as the coast and suggests that the rebels, who Ukraine says are being supported by Russia, are emboldened and reinforced.

The new south-eastern front has raised fears the separatists are seeking to create a land link between Russia and Crimea. If so, that could also give the rebels or Russia control over the entire Azov Sea and any oil or mineral riches it contains.

The Mayor Oleg Sidorkin said that rebels had entered the town. There were no details on the size of the rebel force. Earlier, more than 20 shells were fired in one hour at Novoazovsk. Plumes of black smoke rose above the town, which was also hit repeatedly by shelling on Tuesday that damaged a hospital and wounded four people inside, Mr Sidorkin said.

 

Security officials said villages around Novoazovsk have also come under shelling. The assault on the town has forced government troops to spread their ranks thinner along the Russian border.

“Novoazovsk is being shelled both from Russia and from positions on Ukrainian territory,” a Ukrainian National Security Council spokesman Colonel Andriy Lysenko told reporters.

Mr Sidorkin said the rebel forces were positioned near the southernmost border with Russia. It was not clear how the rebels could travel to the area, which is distant from the front line further north. Fighters could have easily come over the Russian border, however.

Artillery shells in Novoazovsk appear to be flying between positions held by rebels and by government forces. “It hit a tree, there was a blast and the shrapnel came down here,” said Alexei Podlepentsov, an electrician at the hospital.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Full Stack Software Developer - Javascript

£18000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Strategic Partnerships Coordinator

£16000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Their research appears at the f...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Manchester

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This exciting startup disruptin...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen