Ukraine’s government vowed to press ahead with a military offensive against separatists, despite a deadly attack on an army helicopter and amid further reports that fighters from Russia have been involved in rebellions in the east.
The President-elect, Petro Poroshenko, who scored an overwhelming first-round victory in a poll on Sunday, swore to punish those responsible for shooting down the helicopter near Slavyansk and killing 14 servicemen. The acting Defence Minister, Mykhilo Koval, repeating charges that Russia was carrying out “special operations” in eastern Ukraine, said on Friday that Ukrainian forces would continue with military operations in border areas “until these regions begin to live normally, until there is peace”.
Officials in Kiev have long alleged that the rebellions have been fomented by Moscow among the largely Russian-speaking population, which is especially vulnerable to cross-border propaganda hostile to Kiev’s “Euro-Maidan” revolution that overthrew the Moscow-backed President, Viktor Yanukovich, in February.
Reports by Ukrainian border authorities and journalists now appear to show increasing evidence of direct involvement by Russian fighters. In the latest such report yesterday, border guards said they had seized a cache of weapons, including grenade-launchers, in two cars as they crossed from Russia.