KIEV, Ukraine – Pro-Russian insurgents seized a town in the Luhansk region of Ukraine on Tuesday.
Hundreds of rebels seized Popasnaya, a city of 20,000 people. After the militants shifted thousands of fighters to the provincial capital of Donetsk last week, Ukrainian forces continued to press their campaign, according to Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Danylo Lubkivsky.
“The turmoil in Ukraine is slowly coming to its logical conclusion,” Lubkivsky said in Kiev. “An active anti-terrorist operation is continuing because they don’t want to lay down their arms.”
About 50 people were killed, mostly civilians, over the weekend as government forces drove rebels out Kramatorsk in the Donetsk region.
Pro-Russian militias attacked Ukrainian positions a dozen times in the past 24 hours, including a tank assault on the Luhansk airport, Defense Ministry spokesman Andriy Lysenko said. They destroyed seven bridges, including three Monday, after the army recaptured territory, the government said. The insurgents also laid mines, posing a risk to civilians, the Defense Ministry said.
Ukraine’s army has won the biggest victories of its three- month campaign during the past few days, retaking the towns of Slovyansk and Kramatorsk. Lysenko said government troops had blocked all roads to Donetsk and Luhansk. Several thousand militants with tanks and armored personnel carriers moved to the bigger cities on July 5.
The militants have vowed to make a stand there. Citizens in Donetsk report daily gunfire and explosions, while Ukrainian army forces have yet to enter the cities in force. Two people died and eight were wounded by shelling in Luhansk, according to Lysenko, who said the militants had fired the round.