DONETSK, Ukraine — Ukraine’s president-elect said Monday he wants to begin talks with Moscow and end a pro-Russia insurgency in the east, but the rebels escalated the conflict by occupying a major airport, and the government in Kiev responded with an airstrike.
As darkness fell in Donetsk, it was unclear who was in control of the airport. Hundreds of fighters of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic had been brought by trucks to a wooded area on the fringes of the airport, many of them armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers and automatic rifles. At least one warplane streaked over the city, and explosions were heard from the direction of the airport.
Early today, the DPR said on its Twitter account that a truck carrying wounded from the airport area came under fire and that the driver was killed.
The rebels, who declared independence for Donetsk and the neighboring Luhansk region after a dubious referendum, regarded Sunday’s election of candy tycoon Petro Poroshenko as president to be illegitimate.
In a victory speech, the billionaire promised to open a dialogue with residents of eastern Ukraine and to guarantee their rights. The rebels and many others in the region say they fear the February ouster of pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych will lead to the repression of its predominantly Russian-speaking population by Ukrainian nationalists.
Poroshenko also said he would not negotiate with armed insurgents that he calls terrorists.
“Peace can only be achieved through a dialogue with people,” he said Monday. “This process cannot be stopped with the use of arms only; arms can be used exclusively against killers and terrorists.”
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