Ukraine Forces Regain Control of Mariupol
by VOA News June 13, 2014
Ukraine's government said Friday that its security forces regained control of Mariupol, a port city in the Donetsk region that has changed hands several times.
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said Ukrainian forces raised the country's flag over city hall.
Earlier in the day, he said security forces had surrounded the rebel-held city.
Pro-Russian separatists in Mariupol said five members of their group had been killed in fighting.
On Thursday, Interior Minister Avakov accused Russia of allowing an armored column, including three military tanks, to cross into Ukraine at a border control point manned by separatists.
A spokesman for President Petro Poroshenko said the Ukrainian leader told Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone call that the reported crossing was 'unacceptable.'
A Kremlin statement said Poroshenko briefed Putin on plans to settle unrest in the southeast of Ukraine. The statement said the two men also discussed bilateral relations.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in a statement Friday that if reports of 'pro-Russian armed gangs' acquiring heavy weapons, including tanks and other armored vehicles, from Russia were confirmed, it would mark 'a serious escalation' of the crisis in eastern Ukraine.
Russia, which annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula in March, has repeatedly said it would not make further intrusions into Ukrainian territory.
In another development, Russian forces began military exercises Thursday in the Baltic Sea enclave of Kaliningrad. Moscow says the exercises are a response to ongoing NATO maneuvers in European NATO countries near its borders. Kaliningrad is a tiny Russian territory wedged between NATO member-states Lithuania and Poland.
In Moscow Thursday, Russian President Putin marked one of Russia's main holidays, Russia Day, with praise for the annexation of Crimea. In an address, Mr. Putin said the peninsula and its strategic Black Sea port of Sevastopol have come back to their 'homeland.'
Western governments and the United Nations say Crimea has been occupied by Russian soldiers.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.
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