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15 Apr, 2014 13:27

Military seize airfield controlled by anti-govt activists in eastern Ukraine

Military seize airfield controlled by anti-govt activists in eastern Ukraine

Ukrainian troops have seized an airfield in the city of Kramatorsk as part of a security operation against anti-government activists in the eastern part of the country. Activists claimed several people were wounded.

Follow LIVE updates as military operation unfolding in eastern Ukraine


Coup-imposed President Aleksandr Turchinov said that he received a telephone call confirming that the military has seized the airfield in Kramatorsk.

Ukrainian troops approached the military airfield in armored personnel carriers between the eastern cities of Kramatorsk and Slavyansk earlier on Tuesday, the people’s militia located at the airfield told RIA Novosti over the phone.

“They started negotiating with the people’s militia, which is in control of the airfield. The shooting started unexpectedly. There are injured among the people’s militia, and there may be deaths,” they said.

The activists who controlled the base said they were forced to retreat. However, the city is still under the control of the people’s militia, as they have blocked the entrance to Kramatorsk and are ready to defend the city, the activists added.

“We were forced out of the airfield, but the city itself is under our control, we won’t allow [the Ukrainian troops] to enter,” one of the activists told Interfax.

“There are about 60 units of armored vehicles. They have been preparing for several days, and now they started to storm [the airfield]. The protesters blocked their way, they started shooting, there are wounded. Our people retreated. There are about 15 tanks, the other units are armored personnel vehicles,” another member of the people’s militia told RIA Novosti.

Ukrainian soldiers are seen near armored personnel carriers at a checkpoint near the town of Izium in Eastern Ukraine, April 15, 2014. (Reuters / Dmitry Madorsky)

However, the aid to the head of Ukraine’s Ministry of Interior Stanislav Rechinsky said there were no casualties. He did not specify the number of captives, saying that “this information will come in the upcoming days”

He added that special forces of the Interior Ministry Omega and of SBU Alfa took part in the operation.
Planes and helicopters were mobilized during the raid to “defend the machinery, as it was not known how the [security operation] would end,” according to the Ukrainian army.

Videos of military jets and helicopters flying over Kramatorsk as the attack was launched appeared on YouTube.

A RIA Novosti reporter on the scene said after the security operation that at around 5 p.m. on Tuesday, hundreds of civilians gathered at the airfield to negotiate with the troops. There were about 50 military officers in black and green uniforms, the reporter added.

The Ukrainian troops fired warning shots into the air to disperse the civilians. In turn, the protesters started setting up barricades.

Ukrainian troops stand guard at a checkpoint near the city of Izium in the Kharkiv region of east Ukraine April 15, 2014. (Reuters / Maks Levin)

A Ukrainian security authority who was appointed chief of the security operation in eastern Ukraine said on Tuesday that all activists who do not lay down their arms will be "destroyed."

"They must be warned that if they do not lay down their arms, they will be destroyed," Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) General Vasily Krutov told reporters, as quoted by AFP.

Russian President Vladimir Putin urged the UN and the international community to condemn Kiev’s “unconstitutional” actions in eastern Ukraine, the Kremlin’s press service said in a Tuesday statement.

Putin spoke on the phone with UN Chief Ban Ki-Moon and discussed the escalating tensions which have been caused by Kiev’s security operation.

"The Secretary-General...underlined that any deepening of the crisis would be profoundly detrimental for all concerned; hence the need for everyone to work to de-escalate the situation," Ban's press office said in a statement.


Earlier on Tuesday, reports emerged that the eastern city of Slavyansk was being raided by Ukrainian troops as part of the security operation.

“Currently there is a major attack on Slavyansk, armored personnel vehicles are entering the city...there are many troops. The men are getting ready to defend [the city],” head of the Donbass people’s militia, Sergey Tsyplakov, told RIA Novosti.

“There is a lot of military machinery here,” said one of the activists. “But the shooting hasn’t started yet.”

RT Spanish correspondent Francisco Guaita, reporting from the scene later in the day, said that Slavyansk is calm. According to Guaita, the regional administration building and local police station are still under the control of anti-government activists and there are no Ukrainian military troops inside the city.

This looks like war preparations. Checkpoint near #Skavyansk#Donetsk region @Ruptlypic.twitter.com/MdskpNtnW4

— denise reese (@denice_ruptly) April 15, 2014

Ukrainian officials denied media reports of troops circling the city.

“There is no military machinery in Slavyansk, no troops, though there are a lot of panicky reports in the media of tanks moving [to the city], armored vehicles and so on,” said the aid to the head of Ukraine’s Ministry of Interior Rechinsky.

RT’s Guaita also reported that hundreds of people were gathering in the center of Slavyansk “to make it clear that they want a referendum, they are not going to move from here...and they want more sovereignty.”

Anti-government protesters have been holding rallies in the southeastern part of the country following the coup in Kiev on February 22. Activists have seized government buildings in most of the cities in the Donetsk region.

On Sunday, the Kiev government launched a crackdown operation in Slavyansk. Following the event, Ukraine’s Security Council approved a full-scale security operation in the country’s eastern regions. Moscow slammed Kiev’s order, saying it was “criminal.”

On Monday, Turchinov signed a decree to officially begin a “special anti-terrorist operation.”

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