LOCAL 12 - Search Results
Strategic Ukraine town now under rebel control
NOVOAZOVSK, Ukraine (AP) -- The strategically positioned southeastern Ukraine town of Novoazovsk appears firmly under the control of Russia-backed separatists as concerns grow about the opening of a new front in the Ukraine conflict.
On Thursday morning, an Associated Press journalist saw rebel checkpoints at the outskirts and was told he could not enter. One of the rebels said there was no fighting in the town.
Novoazovsk, which lies along the road connecting Russia to the Russia-annexed Crimean peninsula, had come under shelling for three days, with the rebels entering on Wednesday. The southeastern portion of Ukraine along the Azov Sea previously had escaped the fighting engulfing areas to the north.
In Donetsk, the largest rebel-held city, 11 people were killed by shelling during the night, the city administration said in a statement.
The new southeastern front raised fears that the separatists are seeking to create a land link between Russia and Crimea. If successful, it could give them or Russia control over the entire Sea of Azov and the gas and mineral riches that energy experts believe it contains. Ukraine already has lost roughly half its coastline, several major ports and significant Black Sea mineral rights in March when Russia annexed Crimea.
In Mariupol, a city of 450,000 about 30 kilometers (20 miles) to the west, a brigade of Ukrainian forces arrived at the airport on Wednesday afternoon, while deep trenches were dug a day earlier on the city's edge.
The U.S. government accused Russia of orchestrating a new military campaign in Ukraine that is helping rebel forces expand their fight and sending in tanks, rocket launchers and armored vehicles.
"These incursions indicate a Russian-directed counteroffensive is likely underway in Donetsk and Luhansk," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Wednesday. She voiced concern about overnight deliveries of materiel in southeast Ukraine near Novoazovsk and said Russia was being dishonest about its actions, even to its own people.
Russian forces, she said, are being sent 30 miles inside Ukraine, without them or their families knowing where they are going. She cited reports of burials in Russia for those who've died in Ukraine and wounded Russian soldiers being treated in a St. Petersburg hospital.
Associated Press journalists on the border have seen the rebels with a wide range of unmarked military equipment including tanks, Buk missile launchers and armored personnel carriers and have run into many Russians among the rebel fighters. Ukraine also captured 10 soldiers from a Russian paratrooper division Monday around Amvrosiivka, a town about 20 kilometers from the Russian border.
Follow us on Twitter @Local12 and LIKE us on Facebook for updates!