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