Pro-Russians in east Ukraine rejected President Petro Poroshenko’s truce and engaged in heavy fighting with Ukrainian troops early Thursday morning near Krasny Liman.
“We issued an ultimatum to the terrorists overnight to surrender their weapons. We guarantee their safety and investigation in line with Ukrainian law … They refused,” said Vladyslav Seleznyov, spokesman for the government. “Now we are trying to narrow the encirclement. They are trying to break out,” Seleznyov said.
Reports say 4,000 pro-Russians were involved in the fighting and tanks were involved on both sides. Both reports could not be confirmed. However, on June 12, Kiev claimed three Russian tanks entered Ukraine and a week later NATO released satellite images that support the claim.
In April, then-interim President Oleksandr Turchynov started an anti-terrorist operation in east Ukraine. Since then, over 147 Ukrainian soldiers have died, including 49 on June 14 when pro-Russians shot down a military plane. The United Nations said 257 civilians have been killed since May 7, 200 reports of torture, and 81 people held since June 7.
“A climate of lawlessness prevails in the east with an increase in criminality, killings, abductions and detentions by the armed groups,” said U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic.
“We’re talking about a reign of fear, if not a reign of terror, in those pocket areas,” said Gianni Magazzeni, head of the rights office’s European department.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said there are a few thousand more Russian troops on Ukraine’s border.
“We now see a new Russian military build-up around the Ukrainian border. At least a few thousand more Russian troops are now deployed,” Rasmussen said. “I consider this a very regrettable step backwards. It seems Russia keeps the option open to intervene further in Ukraine. The international community would have to respond in a firm manner if Russia were to intervene further in Ukraine.”
“That would imply deeper … economic sanctions against Russia which would have a very damaging effect on the Russian economy,” he continued.
Russia placed thousands of troops on Ukraine’s border in mid-March. Russian President Vladimir Putin promised NATO at least three times he would remove the troops, but satellite images show Putin did not keep his promise.