Pro-Russian militants take position on the roof of the Donetsk airport on Monday
Pro-Russian militants take position on the roof of the Donetsk airport on Monday

Launches air strike, new leader says he would not let rebels turn the East Ukraine into another Somalia

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. In response, Ukraine launched air strikes and a paratrooper assault against rebels.

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.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s new president-elect wasted no time on Monday and immediately focused on the top issues at hand promising to negotiate an end to a pro-Russia insurgency in the east and saying he was willing to begin talks with Moscow.

Russia quickly welcomed the offer from 48-year-old chocolate magnate Petro Poroshenko, raising hopes that his election will indeed ease the protracted crisis that has fuelled tensions unseen since the end of the Cold War.

He said he would not let insurgents turn the east into another Somalia. The confectionery tycoon, nicknamed the “chocolate king”, told reporters: “There are no talks with terrorists.

International observers, meanwhile hailed Ukraine’s presidential vote as a “genuine election,” saying it was held freely and fairly. Poroshenko, known for his pragmatism, supports building strong ties with Europe but also has stressed the importance of mending relations with Moscow. Upon claiming victory in yesterday’s vote, he said his first step as president would be to visit the Donbass eastern industrial region, where pro-Russia separatists have seized government buildings, declared independence and battled government troops in weeks of fighting.

“Peace in the country and peace in the east is my main priority,” Poroshenko said, signalling that he would bring to an end the Ukrainian army’s much-criticised campaign to drive out the armed pro-Russia separatists.

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