Rebels down Ukraine plane, 49 dead Bomb found near pres­i­dent’s of­fice

DNA Sunday (Mumbai) - - FRONT PAGE - — Reuters

Kiev: Pro- Rus­sian sep­a­ratists shot down a mil­i­tary trans­port plane on Satur­day in the coun­try’s restive east, killing all 49 ser­vice per­son­nel on board, Ukrainian offi cials said.

It was a bit­ter set­back for Ukrainian forces, which have strug­gled to sup­press an armed in­sur­gency by foes of the new govern­ment.

Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko sum­moned his de­fence and se­cu­rity chiefs for con­sul­ta­tions on Satur­day over the in­ci­dent. “All those in­volved in cyn­i­cal acts of ter­ror­ism of this mag­ni­tude must be pun­ished. Ukraine needs peace. How­ever, the ter­ror­ists will re­ceive an ad­e­quate re­sponse,” Poroshenko said in a state­ment.

Nine crew and 40 troops were aboard the Il- 76 when it went down early on Satur­day as it ap­proached the air­port at the city of Luhansk, the Ukrainian pros­e­cu­tor gen­eral’s offi ce said in a state­ment. That ex­ceeded the loss of 12 soldiers, in­clud­ing a gen­eral on May 29 when rebels shot down a troop he­li­copter near the east­ern city of Slovyansk.

The in­ci­dent un­der­lines ques­tions about rebel ac­cess to mil­i­tary gear. Ukraine has ac­cused Rus­sia of per­mit­ting three tanks to cross the bor­der where they were used by rebels. Rus­sia de­nies sup­ply­ing the sep­a­ratists.

De­nis Pushilin, a leader of the sep­a­ratist Donetsk People’s Repub­lic, told Rus­sian state tele­vi­sion on Fri­day that rebels had the tanks but it was “im­proper to ask” where they got them.

The de­fense min­istry’s state­ment said that the rebels “cyn­i­cally and treach­er­ously” downed the plane us­ing anti- air­craft guns and heavy ma­chine guns. It ex­pressed sym­pa­thy to the fami- lies of those killed “for their tragic and ir­repara­ble loss.”

Alexei To­porov, de­fense spokesman for the self- pro­claimed Luhansk People’s Repub­lic, said the air­craft was shot down af­ter what he termed Ukrainian “oc­cu­piers” re­fused an ul­ti­ma­tum to aban­don the Luhansk air­port.

Luhansk is in Ukraine’s east near the bor­der with Rus­sia, an area that has seen sep­a­ratists seize govern­ment build­ings and de­clare in­de­pen­dence af­ter hold­ing dis­puted ref­er­en­dums.

Ukraine had claimed a suc­cess on Fri­day when troops re­took some rebel- oc­cu­pied build­ings in the city of Mar­i­upol.

Ten­sions be­tween Ukraine and Rus­sia es­ca­lated in Fe­bru­ary af­ter pro- Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych was driven from offi ce by a mas­sive protest move­ment made up of people who want closer ties with the Euro­pean Union.

— Reuters

Pro- Rus­sian sep­a­ratists gather am­mu­ni­tion at the site of the crash of the Ukrainian army trans­port plane in Luhansk, on Satur­day Ukrainian pres­i­den­tial body­guards dis­posed of a pow­er­ful ex­plo­sive de­vice dis­cov­ered near Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko’s head­quar­ters, a se­cu­rity source said on Satur­day. “The de­vice was found dur­ing the night near the gate where pres­i­den­tial cars go in. It was a container with fi ve grenades and a kilo­gram of metal nuts,” said the source, who de­clined to be iden­tifi ed. “It was a re­ally pow­er­ful de­vice.” The pres­i­den­tial ad­min­is­tra­tion did not im­me­di­ately is­sue any state­ment. Poroshenko was sworn in last week aft er win­ing an elec­tion on May 25.

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