Ukraine said to 'hold line' against Russian troops

Jan 23, 2015, 7:28 AM EST
 Buildings are destroyed during the clashes between Ukrainian security forces and pro-Russian separatists on January 20, 2015 near the airport in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine.
AFP/Getty Images

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Thursday his troops were holding the line against separatists and Russian forces after a sharp increase in attacks and the withdrawal of government defenders from Donetsk airport. Reuters writes that Poroshenko, who told the World Economic Forum on Wednesday that Russia had 9,000 troops inside Ukraine, met defense chiefs to work on a plan to "regroup and stop aggression."

"Across all front lines we are firmly holding our positions," he was quoted as saying. Additionally, Poroshenko reportedly asserted that enemy attacks were 10 times more intensive than before. Earlier on Thursday at least eight civilians were killed when a trolleybus was hit by an artillery shell or mortar at a public transport stop in the southern district of Donetsk, which is largely controlled by separatists.

Poroshenko's comments echoed a report from NATO that said fighting in separatist territories was now more intense in some places than it was before September's Minsk ceasefire agreement. The missile strike that destroyed the trolleybus followed a night of intense fighting at the city's main airport.

As the situation unfolds, efforts at a truce with separatists seems to be off, for now. A BBC article states that Alexander Zakharchenko, the main pro-Russian rebel leader in eastern Ukraine, says his troops are on the offensive and he does not want truce talks with Kiev. Zakharchenko's comments comes as Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany have issued a call to end fighting. On Thursday, the BBC reports, Ukrainian government troops withdrew from Donetsk airport's main terminal, a scene of bitter fighting in recent weeks. The government said the military still retained control of parts of the airport, but six soldiers had died and 16 had been wounded.