Donetsk: The main airport in Ukraine’s eastern city of Donetsk shut down today after being raided by dozens of armed separatists who vowed to keep up their resistance a day after presidential polls.
“At 3:00 in the morning, a group of armed men came. There was no shooting and they demanded that soldiers guarding the perimeter of the airport be withdrawn,” spokesman Dmytro Kosinov told AFP.
Kosinov said the airport halted operations at 1230 IST and now appeared to be under control of gunmen who identified themselves as “representatives of the Donetsk People’s Republic” that has proclaimed independence from Kiev.
An AFP reporter saw three trucks full of armed men in camouflage and some wearing orange-and-black St George ribbons representing an allegiance to Russia pass a police checkpoint and head toward the airport.
They were followed by two sports utility vehicles with tinted windows.
Separatists in the heavily-Russified eastern rust belt of the ex-Soviet nation launched an insurgency against Kiev’s rule in early April that saw them seize about a dozen cities and towns in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions neighbouring Russia.
The rebels thwarted voting across parts of eastern Ukraine during yesterday’s presidential election that pro-Western billionaire Petro Poroshenko was set to win in the first round.
Several rebel commanders said yesterday they would not recognise the tycoon’s legitimacy and would continue their independence fight.