At least 13 Ukrainian soldiers (and reportedly at least 20 pro-Russian supporters) were killed today as WSJ reports fighting flared across breakaway regions in the east just days before a presidential election the rebels have vowed to block. Markets have forgotten that the US-Europe-Russia-China-Ukraine tensions continue and the major event risk this weekend but the last 24 hours have seen several attacks with the highest number of casualties since the conflict began 2 months ago. Separatists near Luhansk blew up a bridge over the Siverskiy Donets river near Novodruzhesk in several hours of fighting, Interfax reported, citing witnesses. The worst fighting appeared to take place near Volnovakha, on the road from the regional capital, Donetsk, to Mariupol, where there hadn't been heavy separatist fighting before.. and the dismal episode was caught on tape.
At least eleven Ukrainian troops were killed and about 30 others were wounded on Thursday when pro-Russian insurgents attacked a military checkpoint, the deadliest raid in weeks of fighting in eastern Ukraine.
Journalists saw 11 bodies scattered around the checkpoint on the edge of the village of Blahodatne, about 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of the city of Donetsk.
Witnesses said that more than 30 Ukrainian troops were wounded when the insurgents attacked the checkpoint, and some of them were in grave condition.
The attack came three days before the country's presidential vote.
Three charred Ukrainian armored infantry vehicles, their turrets blown away by powerful explosions, and several burned trucks stood at the site of the combat area. A military helicopter landed on the site, carrying officials who inspected the scene.
The Ukrainian Defence Ministry confirmed the attack, but wouldn't comment on casualties. There was no report of casualties on the insurgent side.
The Volnovakha hospital was closed to the media, as Ukrainian soldiers rushed in and out, and guarded the entrances.
In the town of Horlivka, a rebel commander claimed responsibility for the raid and produced an array of weapons they said they had seized.
Scores have been killed in fighting between pro-Russian insurgents, who have seized government buildings and engaged in clashes with government troops in eastern Ukraine.
Thursday's carnage cast a shadow over Ukraine's presidential vote on Sunday, which insurgents in the east have pledged to derail.
The Responses... (via WSJ)
"Under heavy fire from mortars, grenade-launchers and heavy machine-guns, our boys died for Ukraine," Mr. Turchynov told a group of religious leaders in the capital Kiev.
"Today a major operation was prepared on all fronts and it was repulsed," Mr. Parubiy told a briefing in Kiev, according to the Interfax news agency.
In Moscow, officials said the instability in the region cast further doubt on the elections.
"We will follow how the preparations for these elections go and make our conclusions based on their results," Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said. "We can't express anything other than indignation about the atmosphere in which the preparations for these elections are being conducted."
The Pentagon also announced that a U.S. guided missile cruiser will enter the Black Sea on Friday for training with U.S. allies.
"It's too early to know where they're moving to or how many of them are moving," Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO's top military commander said after a meeting in Brussels of military officers from NATO's 28 members. "But what we do know is that the force that remains on the border is very large, and it's very capable, and it remains in a very coercive posture."