IZYUM (Ukraine) (AFP) – Ukraine pushed tanks toward a flashpoint eastern city on Tuesday to quash a separatist surge backed by Moscow — a high-risk operation that was sharply condemned by the Kremlin but won Washington’s support.
The 20 tanks and armoured personnel carriers were the most forceful response yet by the Western-backed government in Kiev to the pro-Kremlin militants’ occupation of state buildings in nearly 10 cities across Ukraine’s rust belt.
Ukrainian forces set up a cement road barrier and began checking traffic leading to Slavyansk while fighters and attack helicopters circled overhead.
The economically depressed industrial city of 100,000 has effectively been under the control of separatist gunmen since Saturday.
“They must be warned that if they do not lay down their arms, they will be destroyed,” Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) General Vasyl Krutov told a group of reporters tracking the sudden tank movements.
He insisted that the militants were receiving support from several hundred soldiers from the Russian army’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) that had been dispatched to Slavyansk and surrounding villages.
Witnesses told AFP that at least two Ukrainian military helicopters had landed in the nearby town of Kramatorsk with reinforcements.
The threat of all-out war breaking out just beyond the European Union’s eastern frontier sent stock markets across Europe tumbling on Tuesday.
“New fears about Ukraine worried the market and could, at any time, send it plunging once again,” said Saxo Bank analyst Andrea Tueni.
Full article: Ukraine pushes tanks and troops into separatist east (Yahoo!)