Ukraine Demands That Rebels in Donetsk Surrender
Published: August 11, 2014 (Issue # 1823)
DONETSK, Ukraine — Fighting raged in the city of Donetsk on Sunday, as government forces continued to close in on the rebel stronghold and pro-Russian insurgents backed away from an unconditional cease-fire offer that they announced just the day before.
With a string of military successes and broad support for its campaign from the West and most of its domestic base, Kiev has taken a hard line against the rebel forces and promised it will only relent when the separatists surrender. Donetsk remained a ghost town on Sunday, with few civilians daring to venture outside as explosions rang out every few minutes and burnt-out buses and buildings smoldered from the night before.
In a statement Saturday, newly elected rebel leader Aleksandr Zakharchenko appeared to call for a cease-fire without stating any preconditions. But on Sunday, rebel spokeswoman Elena Nikitina repeated the rebels' earlier stance, telling the Associated Press that talks on the conflict could only begin if the Ukrainian army withdrew from the region — something Kiev is unlikely to do.
She also denounced the government as "incapable of negotiating."
Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council spokesman Andriy Lysenko said that the only way for the rebels in Donetsk to save their lives would be to "lay down their arms and give up." He said the Ukrainian side hadn't seen the rebels show any real willingness to cooperate.
"If white flags come up and they lay down their arms, nobody is going to shoot at them," he said. "(But) we have not seen any practical steps yet, just a statement."
Lysenko added that the Ukrainian military's recent successes in encircling Donetsk had bred "panic and chaos in the ranks of the rebels," and said the Kiev government had information about rebels "deserting their posts en masse."
Conditions were clearly deteriorating in Donetsk, the largest rebel stronghold in eastern Ukraine. Associated Press reporters heard 25 loud explosions in as many minutes around noon. According to city council spokesman Maxim Rovinsky, at least one person was killed and 10 injured in shelling overnight, as more than 10 residential buildings, a hospital and a shop were heavily damaged in the fighting.
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