The Guardian reports the following:Ukraine's government has said the country is now "at war” with pro-Russia insurgents as the Kremlin warned that it had received “thousands” of pleas for help from inside its neighbour.
As fighting raged around the town of Kramatorsk in the eastern region of Donetsk, Ukrainians took stock of the worst bloodshed since the February Revolution. At least 42 people died in the port city of Odessa on Friday, including dozens who were killed inside a burning building, while the army’s “anti-terrorist” operation in the east claimed another nine lives. (Read more.)
Slavyansk was quickly established as the heartland of the pro-Russia forces operating in the region. Armed men, led by self-appointed mayor Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, have controlled the city, ringed by militia-controlled road blockades, for more than two weeks.Share
In Donetsk, Luhansk, Kostinovka and Horlivka, rebels have seized most of the state security and administrative buildings. Kidnappings and murders have become common as law enforcement officials defect to the rebels.
As the Ukrainian army edged ever closer to the rebel HQ in Slavyansk on Friday, gunfire echoed as fighting raged in the areas surrounding the city. Ambulances tore down the deserted streets throughout the night to collect the wounded and dead.
Local people claim the Ukrainian army shot at unarmed citizens who formed a human chain near a road blockade on the edge of the village of Andreevka, only a few miles from Slavyansk. "They are killing peaceful people," said Igor, 29, a farmworker from the village who was receiving treatment at the Slavyansk hospital for a shrapnel injury he said he suffered during the night assault.
"I'm just a local citizen, unarmed. People ran away when they started shooting at us," he said. Those with more serious injuries were reportedly taken to the nearby Kramatorsk hospital. Some suggest that ambulances and cars carrying the dead and wounded were not allowed to pass by the Ukrainian military.
The total number of rebel losses cannot be confirmed, but a spokeswoman for Ponomaryov said that at least 10 militia and 30 civilians had died. "Countless more are injured," she said, "and the number is growing every second."
Less than 24 hours after the counter-terrorism assault against the rebels began, Ponomaryov announced the release of seven Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) officials and their civilian translator, who were taken by bus to Donetsk. Some have interpreted the move as a bid by the Russia-backed rebels to reduce tensions. The mayor's spokeswoman said the "guests" had left "without conditions".
After a brief hiatus, fighting resumed around midday on Saturday as the Ukrainian army advanced in Kramatorsk. In an attempt to counter the attack, lorries and buses were used to fortify the barricades and block Ukrainian armoured personnel carriers from entering the city by road.
Local militia set tyre barricades ablaze in a bid to create a thick screen of black smoke to hold back the Ukrainian advance. Both sides shot at each other intermittently for several hours. (Read more.)