Tags: ukraine | evacuation | rebel | attacks

Ukraine Evacuates Civilians From Key Town as Rebel Attack Mounts

Tuesday, 03 Feb 2015 06:27 AM

 Ukraine evacuated civilians from a strategically important juncture in the country’s east as the worsening fighting with pro-Russian rebels led to calls for a military buildup on both sides.

The town of Debaltseve, a key railway crossing between the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, remained under fire from separatists, Ukrainian military spokesman Leonid Matyukhin told reporters in Kiev on Tuesday. The region of Donetsk, where 3,070 people have fled the most dangerous locations since Jan. 28, is continuing efforts to evacuate people, the regional government said on its website.

The “issue of evacuating civilians, including children, needs to become one of the key priorities,” Iryna Herashchenko, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s envoy to eastern Ukraine, said in Kiev on Tuesday, urging a meeting with the Red Cross and the United Nations.

As attempts to reestablish a truce have failed, a separatist leader ordered the mobilization of tens of thousands of troops starting next week. To bolster Ukraine’s ability to respond, eight former U.S. officials urged President Barack Obama and NATO to send $3 billion of military aid. Administration officials say they are focused on a diplomatic solution but are examining all options.

Military Exercises

Arming the Ukrainian military could risk fracturing the unity between the U.S. and its NATO allies and might tempt Russian President Vladimir Putin to increase his support for the rebels.

Russia plans to carry out military exercises involving its Caspian Sea naval forces, the Black Sea Fleet’s air force and motorized infantry detachments, Interfax news service reported on Tuesday. A Ukrainian military jet was shot down while doing reconnaissance near Debaltseve, Interfax said, citing an unidentified rebel in Donetsk.

An administration official familiar with Obama’s thinking said the president remains unconvinced that providing anything more than non-lethal aid or limited and purely defensive weapons is wise. Speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal policy deliberations, the official said such arms could destroy rather than promote attempts to devise a political solution.

The report, issued jointly by the Atlantic Council, the Brookings Institution and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, urges the U.S. to spend $1 billion annually for the next three years on military aid that includes reconnaissance drones, armored Humvees and radars to detect location of enemy artillery fire.

“Assisting Ukraine to deter, attack and defend itself is not inconsistent with the search for a peaceful, political solution -— it is essential to achieving it,” says the report whose authors include Michele Flournoy, former under secretary of defense. “Only if the Kremlin knows that the risks and costs of further military action are high will it seek to find an acceptable political solution.”

Body Armor

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is due to visit Kiev on Feb. 5 to meet with Ukrainian officials.

Pro-Russian forces in Ukraine seeks to increase the rebel army to as many as 100,000 people, Alexander Zakharchenko, head of the self-declared Donetsk republic, said Monday, according to the separatist-run DAN news service. “Voluntary” mobilization will start on Feb. 9, Interfax reported on Tuesday, citing Zakharchenko.

So far, the U.S. has only provided so-called non-lethal aid, including body armor, night-vision goggles and first-aid kits. Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, remains opposed to any military aid.

Ukraine, the U.S. and its allies accuse Russia of supporting the rebels with hardware, cash and thousands of troops, accusations the Kremlin has repeatedly denied. Russia says the government in Kiev is waging war against its own citizens and discriminating against Russian speakers, who make up the majority of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

NATO’s military commander General Philip Breedlove may lend his support to some increase in military aid.

Breedlove “supports the pursuit of a diplomatic solution as well as considering practical means of support to the government of Ukraine in its struggle against Russian-backed separatists,” said Pentagon spokesman Gregory Hicks. “Russia must be part of a solution to bring peace and security in Ukraine.”

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Ukraine evacuated civilians from a strategically important juncture in the country's east as the worsening fighting with pro-Russian rebels led to calls for a military buildup on both sides.The town of Debaltseve, a key railway crossing between the cities of Donetsk and...
ukraine, evacuation, rebel, attacks
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2015-27-03
Tuesday, 03 Feb 2015 06:27 AM
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