The European Parliament is accusing Russia of what it calls “acts of terrorism” in Ukraine.
Meeting in Brussels, the European Union legislative body passed a resolution condemning what it called Russia’s “aggressive and expansionist policy” and “the acts of terrorism and criminal behavior” by Russian-backed rebels in east Ukraine.
Ukraine is observing a day of national mourning for 13 bus passengers killed in a rocket attack Tuesday south of the rebel-controlled city of Donetsk. Kyiv has accused rebels of firing the rocket; Moscow lays blame on Ukrainian troops.
The EU Parliament also urged maintaining sanctions against Russia unless it meets a number of conditions, including respecting the cease-fire agreed to last September, unconditionally withdrawing its troops and “illegal armed groups” from the region, exchanging prisoners, and restoring Ukraine’s control over its territory, including Crimea. The parliament said the sanctions should be broadened in the event of further Russian actions “destabilizing” Ukraine.
Also Thursday, separatist officials said they had nearly recaptured all of the Donetsk airport after a months-long battle. But Ukraine’s military says it continues to control part of the largely ruined facility.
The fighting in eastern Ukraine has recently intensified, particularly in and around the airport. Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said Thursday that two servicemen had been killed and six wounded over the previous 24 hours.
Ukraine alleges massive Russian troop presence
Meanwhile, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, Oleksandr Turchynov says separatist forces in eastern Ukraine now number 36,000 troops, including 8,500 Russian military servicemen, and they are armed with 542 tanks, 990 armored fighting vehicles, 694 artillery systems and 57 anti-aircraft missile systems.
He also said that there are more than 52,000 Russian troops in a state of “full combat readiness” on the Ukrainian-Russian border, along with more than 300 tanks, 1,800 armored fighting vehicles, 750 artillery systems and up to 360 warplanes and attack helicopters.
Turchynov warned that “the renewal of hostilities by the enemy on a large scale,” and with the participation of Russia’s armed forces, could lead to what he called “a continental war on a large scale.”
Despite what Kyiv and the West call incontrovertible evidence, Russia continues to deny any direct involvement in the conflict in east Ukraine.