Ukrainian forces have taken full control of Donetsk airport as they continue to fight pro-Russian rebels in the eastern Ukraine city, a Ukrainian military spokesman says.
“The active stage of the counter-terrorist operation continues. The government is now at full control of the airport and the road leading to it,” Vladislav Seleznev told CNN.
Meantime, two people were killed in fighting in the city, the Donetsk City Council said in an online statement.
The council warned residents not to leave their homes.
“The bus station is closed. Car movement is limited. A nine-story residential building at the train station area has been damaged. A market outside the train station caught on fire as the result of artillery fire. Still, the train station is working,” it said.
Donetsk is west of the area where Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed Thursday, with the loss of 298 lives. The United States says a Russian-made surface-to-air missile fired from pro-Russian rebel territory took down the Boeing 777.
Russia has blamed Kiev’s resumption of military operations against the rebels at the end of June for the tragedy, while the U.S. has accused Russia of supporting the rebels that Washington believes fired the missile.
Since the crash, Ukraine’s government and rebels have traded bitter accusations over who was responsible.
The Ukraine government says “terrorists” fired on the plane. Ukrainian officials have distributed recordings of what they say are intercepted communications between pro-Russian rebels discussing shooting it down.
Alexander Borodai, the rebel leader who calls himself the Prime Minister of the self-styled Donetsk People’s Republic, has conceded that the plane was shot down but says his forces did not do it. He told CNN on Sunday that his forces lack the firepower to hit an airplane so high up.
The Ukraine crisis has its roots in former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to shun a European Union association agreement last year and work with Russia instead. The move unleashed deadly strife that led to Yanukovych’s ouster, Russia’s annexation of Crimea and a pro-Russian rebellion.