Buildings damaged by a recent shelling are seen in the
eastern Ukrainian village of Semenovka. Photo by Reuters
Ukrainian government forces have warned separatists in
the eastern town of Donetsk that a plan was now in place to
take back the territory they occupy, but defiant rebels
reported a steady flow of new recruits who were ready to fight.
The Ukrainian military pushed the rebels out of their
best-fortified stronghold in the town of Slaviansk on
Saturday (local time), but they have regrouped for a stand in
Donetsk, a city of nearly a million people. Rebels also still
control strategic buildings in Luhansk near the Russian
Separatists said on Tuesday that Igor Strelkov, a Russian
military officer from Moscow who until the weekend led rebels
in Slaviansk, had assumed command of the "defence of
President Petro Poroshenko has ruled out using air strikes
and artillery that might endanger civilians and said on
Tuesday night: "There will be no street fighting in Donetsk."
But the government says it has a plan to retake Donetsk and
Luhansk and deliver a "nasty surprise" for the rebels.
Military spokesman Andriy Lysenko spelled out the threat on
Wednesday, saying: "There's a plan to liberate Ukrainian
territory from the terrorists, and it doesn't depend on the
readiness or the unreadiness of Strelkov and his underlings
to defend, as they call it, the Donbass."
But separatists in charge of a 'mobilisation' centre for the
self-proclaimed 'people's republic' said on Wednesday that
recruitment of new fighters was continuing at a pace since
Strelkov made an appeal for fresh recruits on Tuesday.
About 300 volunteers had come forward to join up since
Tuesday, many more than the usual number of 25-30 people per
day, separatists at the centre said.
Pro-Russian separatists have been fighting government forces
in the Russian-speaking east since April in a conflict in
which more than 200 Ukrainian troops have been killed as well
as hundreds of civilians and rebels.
The conflict has driven relations between Russia and the
ex-Soviet republic to an all-time low and sparked the worst
crisis in Russia's relations with the West since the Cold
After a patchy performance at the start of the campaign,
government forces have been re-invigorated by the Slaviansk
victory and signs that rebel calls on Russia for help are now
Poroshenko referred back to those early days of the campaign
when, he said, Ukrainian soldiers had refused to carry out
orders and refused to fight, a time when "a bunch of
provocateurs could stop a brigade of paratroopers or special
"On July 7 the country had 320km of open border (with Russia)
... A month has passed and now the army ensures the border is
closed," he said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois
Hollande spoke by phone with Poroshenko on Wednesday, with
the aim of restarting talks with separatists on a ceasefire,
Merkel's spokesman said.
But hundreds of rebels are setting up barricades and digging
in on the outskirts of Donetsk since pouring in from
Slaviansk and nearby areas recaptured by the government.
PAYING NEW FIGHTERS
Many of the rebel fighters are from Russia, though Moscow
denies supporting their revolt, which began in April after
Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula following the
overthrow of a Moscow-backed president in Kiev.
Despite the rebels' claim of a strong flow of recruits,
Strelkov, also known as Igor Girkin, appeared to be
disappointed at the number of volunteers coming forward. He
told a local rebel TV station that volunteers would be
offered monthly pay of 5,000-8,000 hryvnia ($430 to $690)
from now on to fight.
"Maybe this will help those people who are hesitating to find
the strength in themselves and join the ranks," he said.
But Lysenko derided this as an empty offer: "The terrorists
are resorting to all methods to deceive the local population.
We are coming across leaflets with promises that they are
ready to ... pay 8,000 hryvnia and 20,000 Russian roubles
($600) per month. They are stopping at nothing to try and
persuade people to come over to their side."
Many men of fighting age were wary of the call to arms.
In Donetsk, Evhen, a 35-year-old who runs his own business,
said: "I personally would only join if the situation became
really critical. I never did military service and I have no
military experience. I support the idea (of insurgency), but
there is no clear support (from Russia). Sensible people
worry about how it will all end."
A 19-year-old who would not give his name said: "I won't join
them. For a start, I want a united country. Secondly, there
are an awful lot of marginals among them. There are robbers.
They frighten people and take away their businesses and
APPEAL FOR AID
In Kiev, Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk meanwhile appealed
to Western institutions and donors for further cash and
credit to rebuild infrastructure such as roads, bridges and
buildings in the east that have been shattered by the
But he expressed confidence that Ukraine's compliance with
criteria set by the International Monetary Fund meant the
Kiev government was on course to secure soon a second tranche
of $1.5 billion under a $17 billion IMF programme.
The ex-Soviet republic received a first slice of slightly
more than $3 billion in May under a programme drawn up to
help it plug holes in its budget and settle a big foreign
But Ukraine told international donors on Tuesday in Brussels
that the Fund's bailout was not enough to bring about a full
recovery because of the drain caused by the cost of the war
against the separatists, and it called on them to join in a
"Marshall Plan" to further help Ukraine's recovery.
Ukraine's turn towards the West and away from Moscow has cost
it billions of dollars in promised Russian support for an
economy on the verge of bankruptcy after years of rule rated
by watchdogs as among the world's most corrupt.
Taking up the same theme on Wednesday, Yatseniuk said Ukraine
needed further aid to establish functioning infrastructure on
the border with Russia.
In addition, Ukraine wanted help to meet an estimated cost of
8 billion hryvnia (about $700 million) to rebuild
Yatseniuk said Ukraine would also want donors' help to work
out a "post-rehabilitation" programme to regenerate the
Donbass - an economically depressed eastern region of
decaying infrastructure in the steel and coal industries -
which has become the battleground for the insurgency.
The European Union agreed to add 11 new names to the list of
persons targeted with asset freezes and travel bans over the
Ukraine crisis and the sanctions are likely to take effect on
Saturday, an EU diplomat said.
Ukraine accused Russia of abducting a woman army officer who
was captured by separatist fighters in eastern Ukraine.
Nadezhda Savchenko, 33, was seized by pro-Russian rebels in
June while she was fighting with pro-government militia on
the outskirts of Luhansk on the border with Russia, local
The Ukrainian foreign ministry demanded her release but
Moscow said she had been charged with involvement in the
deaths of two Russian reporters killed near Luhansk.