Fighting erupted in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on Monday, as the country’s military battled pro-Russian separatists who had seized the city’s international airport. “Fighter jets screamed and automatic gunfire popped throughout the afternoon as Ukrainian soldiers fought a ground battle around the airport against the separatists,” the New York Times reports.
The fighting comes one day after Ukraine appeared to have overwhelming elected a new leader, Petro Poroshenko, with the hope, Reuters reports, that the chocolate business baron “can rescue the nation from the brink of bankruptcy, civil war and dismemberment by its former Soviet masters in the Kremlin.” Poroshenko told reporters during a press conference in Kiev Monday, Ukrainian forces needed to be “quicker and more effective” in combating rebel forces while simultaneously calling for talks with Moscow to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
After a day of fighting, the Times reports, “the military appeared to have evicted the separatists from the airport, cordoning off the area with roadblocks.” Here’s more on what the day’s fighting could mean in Ukraine from the Times.
The seizure of the airport suggested a new, perhaps desperate, escalation by the militants who in recent days have appeared to lose the political support of the Kremlin, which indicated that it would respect the results of Sunday’s election.
The militants are unlikely to survive long without the backing of Russia. But support can come in many ways, and it is far from clear that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia intends to give up what appears to be a useful geopolitical lever: violence and instability in Ukraine’s east that has left the West flustered.