The Asian Age
Ukraine slams Russia over direct aggression
Kiev pulls back from defending key airport
Ukraine’s military said on Monday it had pulled its forces back from defending a vital airport in the east against Russian tanks, as President Petro Poroshenko accused Moscow of “direct and open aggression”.
The withdrawal from the civilian airport outside the city of Luhansk was the latest in a string of reverses for Ukrainian forces fighting pro- Russian separatists who Kiev says have the direct support of hundreds of Russian troops and armour.
A military statement said Ukrainian paratroopers were engaging a Russian tank battalion near the airport. A while later spokesman Andriy Lysenko said: “In the Luhansk direction, Ukrainian forces have received an order and have pulled back from the airport.”
Mr Poroshenko, speaking at a military academy in Kiev, said Russia’s direct involvement in Kiev’s war against the separatists in eastern Ukraine had tipped the balance on the battlefield and was the main reason for recent setbacks. “Direct and open aggression has been launched against Ukraine from a neighbouring state. This has changed the situation in the zone of conflict in a radical way,” he said.
There would be changes in the military top brass because of the events of last week, Mr Poroshenko added, referring to the military reverses.
Moscow denies helping the rebels, who have set up “people’s republics” in the Russian- speaking east of Ukraine and say they want to be part of the “Russian world” rather than a country which seeks integration into mainstream Europe. Lysenko said Ukrainian forces had destroyed seven Russian tanks near the airport and had identified a major build- up of Russian forces to the north and south of Luhansk, to the rear of Ukrainian lines. “According to our operational data, there are no fewer than four ( Russian) battalion- tactical groups in Ukraine,” Mr Lysenko told reporters.
Each one comprised 400 men, he said. Separatists, who Kiev says were backed