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Gunfire, airstrikes leave Donetsk Intl airport up in smoke

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Smoke billows from Donetsk international airport during heavy fighting between Ukrainian and pro-Russian forces May 26, 2014. (ReutersSmoke billows from Donetsk international airport during heavy fighting between Ukrainian and pro-Russian forces May 26, 2014. (Reuters)Intensive gunfire and blasts have been heard in the vicinity of Donetsk International Airport in eastern Ukraine, as fighter jets resume strikes at the self-defense forces at the facility, witnesses report.

The Ukrainian military have resumed bombing the Donetsk airport. Earlier, at least three helicopters were seen flying towards the airport.

The operation has so far resulted in two people sustaining wounds, UNIAN news agency said quoting sources close to Kiev's military.

“The fighter jet is supposedly a Sukhoi Su-27 or Su-25,” a self-defense member told RT. “It’s flying at an altitude of 7-10 km, going up and down, circling. Its task is unclear."

“Helicopters land at the airport, then take off,” the witness said.

Ukrainian troops have left the airport and the VIP lounge relocating to a wood nearby, local daily Segodnya claimed. However, the portal was told by the country’s Security Service (SBU) that Ukrainian troops are finishing their operation inside the airport rooting out the last remaining self-defense forces.

“The counter-terror operation started as two Sukhoi Su-25s flew to the airport. They made a warning shot to the area of the terrorists’ location,” Aleksey Dmitrashkovsky, from the SBU press service told the portal. As the self-defense forces fired back, two military choppers, a MiG-29 and Mi-24, were deployed which say the rebels’ forces scattered across the airport.

“Paramilitary troops arrived and they are now cleaning the area off,” Dmitrashkovsky said adding he has no information on casualties.

Airstrikes started after the self-defense forces failed to comply with the ultimatum put forward by Kiev's troops, that is to surrender by 13pm local time, Vladislav Seleznyov, the head of the counter-terror operation, said on his Facebook page.

The airport has been closed “for security reasons”, and Reuters witnesses are seeing smoke billowing from the building. Kiev’s authorities had demanded civilians are evacuated from the airport terminal’s vicinity and the landing field, locals told RT adding that mobile connection was also down at some point.

Early on Monday morning, forces belonging to the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic came to the airport demanding that Ukrainian troops leave it. The self-defense troops said some 200 Kiev soldiers were guarding the inner perimeter of the hub.

The airport was forced to suspend flights. The airport’s press secretary Dmitry Kosinov told RIA Novosti news agency that “operations will be resumed when armed people leave the terminal.”

At the moment, intensive shooting has resumed inside and outside the key airport of Donetsk region, which also serves Kharkov, Lugansk and Zaporozhie regions.

The clashes began just a few hours after the early results of the elections were announced.

Billionaire Pyotr Poroshenko is currently leading in the Ukrainian presidential election. He is in favor of continuing the military operation in the southeast of the country.

May 26 2014, 18:22

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