Russian-Backed Rebels Launch Assault on Donetsk Airport

The Russian-backed separatists are reportedly firing artillery at the airport grounds that are controlled by Ukrainian government troops. Five government soldiers and some rebels died in the fighting, according to Ukraine’s Defense Council, and there were additional reports of civilian casualties on Wednesday.

Ongoing clashes in Donetsk, where the separatists say they have established an independent “People’s Republic,” violate the ceasefire agreement reached last month in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Both sides agreed to put down arms and release prisoners.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said this week that the rebel offensive could derail the ceasefire

Donald Jensen, resident fellow at Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Transatlantic Relations, said in an interview that the Russian-backed rebels in some ways never intended to comply with the ceasefire. Still, Russian President Vladimir Putin might want to maintain a frozen conflict and not push for more territory in Ukraine.

“The Russians repeatedly have not obeyed the provisions of the ceasefire,” Jensen said. “That does not mean the Russians will go further.”

Poroshenko pressed members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on Tuesday to expand their efforts to monitor the agreement in eastern Ukraine. The OSCE will have 500 workers and two drones in Ukraine this month, but the Ukrainian leader said 1,500 people and 29 drones are required to help secure portions of the Russian border controlled by separatists.

However, Victoria Nuland, U.S. assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, said on Wednesday in Ukraine that more OSCE monitors could only be deployed if the ceasefire is fully implemented.

Nuland also announced that the United States would provide an additional $10 million worth of nonlethal equipment to Ukraine’s border guards, including body armor, SUVs, and thermal vision gear, as she met with the deputy chief of the state border guard service.

Poroshenko bluntly called for lethal military aid in a speech to the U.S. Congress last month when he said Ukraine “cannot win a war with blankets.” That request has not been met.

Full article: Russian-Backed Rebels Launch Assault on Donetsk Airport (Washington Free Beacon)

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