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Ukraine President Vows To Retake Rebel-Held East

January 18, 2015

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says Kyiv will reassert control over the country's eastern region, where fighting has intensified in recent days between government troops and pro-Russian separatist rebels.

Poroshenko told a peace rally, the Unity March, in central Kyiv on January 18 that Ukraine would not 'give up an inch' of its land to the separatists.

Several thousand people gathered at the Independence Square, known as the Maidan, the scene of antigovernment protests that ousted former President Viktor Yanukovych.

People were carrying Ukrainian flags and banners that read 'Je suis Volnovakha' in memory of the victims of a recent rocket attack on a commuter bus near the eastern town of Volnovakha.

The January 13 attack killed 12 people in the bloodiest incident in restive eastern Ukraine for months. Kyiv blamed pro-Russian separatists for the shelling, a charge denied by the rebels.

A minute of silence was observed during the rally in memory of all Ukrainian victims of the ongoing conflict in the east.

There were similar rallies in other cities in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said Ukrainian troops launched a 'mass operation' overnight and retook almost all the territory of Donetsk airport lost to separatists in recent weeks.

'We succeeded in almost completely cleaning the territory of the airport, which belongs to the territory of Ukrainian forces as marked by military separation lines,' Lysenko said in a televised briefing on January 18.

The army's offensive at the airport appeared to have brought the fighting to the city of Donetsk itself.

Local residents reported intensified shelling, including from residential areas in central parts of Donetsk, a key separatist stronghold.

Four Ukrainian soldiers have been killed and 32 injured in the past 24 hours, Lysenko said.

The office of the General Staff said separately that three troops had been killed at the airport alone.

The leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic accused Kyiv of attempting to wage a 'new war.'

Currently, residential districts in Donetsk and Luhansk, rebel strongholds in eastern Ukraine, 'are under intense fire,' Aleksandr Zakharchenko was quoted as saying by Interfax on January 18.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, Interfax, and

Source: poroshenko-airport-pledge/26800304.html

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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