Ukraine: Rebel rocket attack kills dozens of government troops

12th Jul 2014

Pro-Russia insurgents have fired rockets at a border post in Ukraine, killing dozens of government troops, according to a Ukrainian official. Meanwhile, Chancellor Angela Merkel has called on Kyiv to exercise restraint.

Using a “Grad” multiple rocket launcher, separatists on Friday fired at a Ukrainian post on the Russian frontier, killing at least thirty government soldiers, according to a senior Interior Ministry official.

“It is not excluded that the number of victims will rise because these blood thirsty scum despicably shot from Grad systems and there is destruction,” said Zoryan Shkiryak, an advisor to Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov.

“I think a response will not be slow in coming after this bloody terrorist act,” Shkiryak said.

Military sources told the Reuters news agency that the rebels had attacked the border post at Zelenopillya in the eastern Luhansk region.

If the casualty figures are confirmed, it would be the worst attack on government troops since Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s unilateral ceasefire ended on June 30.

Berlin calls for restraint

During a phone conversation on Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on President Poroshenko to exercise restraint in his military offensive against pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine.

“The Chancellor urged President Poroshenko to maintain a sense of proportion in his legitimate actions against the separatists and to protect the civilian population,” said German government spokesman Steffen Seibert.

Poroshenko has intensified the government military offensive in eastern Ukraine, wresting the city of Slovyansk from pro-Russian separatists last weekend. Kyiv’s troops are now massed outside of Donetsk, another rebel stronghold in eastern Ukraine.

Ceasefire nowhere in sight

So far, attempts at implementing a ceasefire and beginning peace talks between Kyiv and the eastern separatists have failed. During their phone call, Merkel and Poroshenko agreed that the contact group should meet to break the impasse.

The group includes Ukraine, Russia, the separatists, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

“Both agreed the talks of the contact group…are urgently needed now in order to begin the implementation of Poroshenko’s peace plan and a mutual ceasefire,” said German government spokesman Seibert.

slk/lw (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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