Ukraine says it has reclaimed control of a key city in the east, where rebels and government troops are battling for territory.
Ukraine’s national security spokesman Andriy Lysenko said Wednesday that the Ukrainian military has re-taken control of the town of Ilovaisk, after heavy fighting with pro-Russia separatists.
Lysenko told reporters he cannot say that the town is “freed of terrorists,” but said Ukrainian forces have managed to “enter the town completely.” But he said rebel fighters continue to launch counter-attacks against troops in the area. Lysenko described Ilovaisk, 40 kilometers from the city of Donetsk, as a logistical hub for rebel fighters because of its major roads and rail lines.
Ukrainian commanders also say they are surrounding Donetsk itself, a rebel stronghold, and fighting also continues in the province of Luhansk, near the border with Russia.
Later on Wednesday, Lysenko told reporters a Ukrainian SU-25 single-seat fighter jet has been shot down in the rebel-held Luhansk region. The identity of the shooters and the fate of the pilot are unknown.
Local officials say 34 civilians and at least nine Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in fighting in the past two days.
Lysenko also said Wednesday that an aid convoy from Russia is still parked on the border with Ukraine, awaiting inspection by the International Committee of the Red Cross. He said the Red Cross is still waiting for security guarantees from all sides before inspecting the convoy.
Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, is set to attend a meeting next week with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to address the crisis in eastern Ukraine.
Poroshenko’s office described the August 26 summit in Belarus as an effort aimed at “stabilizing the situation in Ukraine.”
The meeting will bring the two leaders into the same room for the first time since a brief encounter in France in June, and opens the possibility of direct talks for the first time since pro-Russian rebels launched a rebellion in Ukraine’s east in April. Kyiv and many Western government say Moscow is sponsoring the rebellion – a charge Russia denies.
A Kremlin statement said a number of meetings will take place at the Belarus summit. It did not say whether Putin and Poroshenko will meet face-to-face.
EU leaders are also scheduled to attend the meeting, which will be held in Minsk.
And in Moscow Wednesday, police arrested and charged with vandalism four protesters accused of climbing one of Moscow’s most prominent buildings and raising a Ukrainian flag on top. They also are accused of painting the Soviet star on the Stalin-era building’s spire in blue and gold, Ukraine’s national colors.
(Archive photo: Ukraine defence ministry)