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Strategic Ukraine town under rebel control

Armored truck with Ukrainian forces guard at a checkpoint in the town of Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, on Thursday.  

Ukraine’s president called an emergency meeting of the nation’s security council and canceled a foreign trip on Thursday, declaring that “Russian forces have entered Ukraine,” as concerns grew about the opening of a new front in the conflict.

President Petro Poroshenko summoned the council as the strategic southeastern Ukraine town of Novoazovsk appeared firmly under the control of Russia-backed separatists.

“Today the president’s place is in Kiev,” Mr. Poroshenko said.

Russian markets dived as fears grew that the country was escalating its role in the conflict, a move that could provoke the U.S. and European Union to impose further sanctions on Russian businesses and individuals. Russia’s MICEX index dropped nearly 2 percent on Thursday, and major Russian banks VTB and Sberbank dropped more than 4 percent.

On Thursday morning, an Associated Press journalist saw rebel checkpoints at the outskirts of Novoazovsk and was told he could not enter. One of the rebels said there was no fighting in the town.

Mr. Novoazovsk, which lies along the road connecting Russia to the Russia—annexed Crimean peninsula, had come under shelling for three days, with the rebels entering on Wednesday. The southeastern portion of Ukraine along the Azov Sea previously had escaped the fighting engulfing areas to the north.

Mr. Poroshenko cancelled a visit to Turkey for the inauguration of newly elected president Recep Tayyip Mr. Erdogan and called a snap session of Ukraine’s security council.

“I have decided to cancel my visit to Turkey because of the sharp escalation of the situation in the Donetsk region... as Russian forces have entered Ukraine,” he said.

The new southeastern front raised fears that the separatists are seeking to create a land link between Russia and Crimea. If successful, it could give them or Russia control over the entire Sea of Azov and the gas and mineral riches that energy experts believe it contains. Ukraine already has lost roughly half its coastline, several major ports and significant Black Sea mineral rights in March when Russia annexed Crimea.

In Mariupol, a city of 450,000 about 30 kilometres to the west, a brigade of Ukrainian forces arrived at the airport on Wednesday afternoon, while deep trenches were dug a day earlier on the city’s edge.


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Printable version | Jul 27, 2021 6:38:49 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/world/strategic-ukraine-town-under-rebel-control/article6360577.ece

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