Families fleeing eastern Ukraine to escape military siege
Hundreds of Ukrainians have been killed this week since government troops launched their “anti-terrorist operation” on the rebel strongholds in the east.
As the fighting continued to rage in the cities of Luhansk and Slaviansk, U.S. President Barack Obama met with Ukrainian President-elect Petro Poroshenko in Warsaw, Poland on Wednesday. During the meeting, Obama pledged his support for the newly elected Kiev government by promising $5 million worth of supplies for the Ukrainian military–in the form of night vision goggles and body armor–to aid their continued offensive against the rebels.
In remarks following the meeting, Obama announced an additional $1 billion in additional loan guarantees to supplement the IMF’s assistance and said that he and Poroshenko discussed other means that the U.S. might aid in their “reform and transition process.”
“We’ve discussed additional steps that we can take to help train and professionalize the Ukrainian law enforcement and military so they can deal with some of the challenges that are still taking place in certain portions of the country,” Obama said a day after he pledged to boost U.S. military deployments and exercises throughout eastern Europe.
For the second straight day in and around the eastern town of Slaviansk, government forces have battled the separatist army with “aircraft, helicopters and artillery,” Reuters reports.
The news agency, quoting a government spokesman, said more than 300 rebel forces had been killed in the past 24 hours, although the rebels have contested these numbers saying the troops’ losses were “more than ours.”
Speaking with those who were fleeing the country to escape the violence, Reuters continues:
“It’s a mess,” Marina, a young woman, sobbed as she clutched her husband’s arm. “It’s war.”
Balancing his four-year-old daughter on his hip, Andrei Bander, 37, said he feared he would not be back any day soon.
“We took only what was most necessary. We are going. We don’t even know where. We will head to Russia though because it’s clear we need to leave Ukraine. I don’t see anything good left here,” he said, waiting for a taxi in the no man’s land beyond the check point with only a few small bags.
Along the eastern border, armed rebels have seized three military facilities after prolonged battles with Ukrainian troops. The Associated Press reported the insurgents as saying that they wanted to crate a “humanitarian corridor” for those fleeing to Russia to escape the fighting.
During his speech, Obama continued to invoke the Russian threat, slamming them for allegedly “financing or supporting or arming separatists on Ukraine’s sovereign territory.” Calling their involvement a clear “violation of international law,” Obama added that the international community is “willing to back up those principles with consequences for Russia.”
On Wednesday evening, leaders of the G7 countries will convene in Brussels. The meeting, originally slated to include President Vladimir Putin and take place in Sochi, Russia, marks the first time in 17 years that body will come together without a representative from Russia.