Alexander Borodai, leader of Donetsk ‘republic’, and 10 others face travel bans and asset freezes as clashes continue in east
Guardian | 12 July 2014
The European Union has imposed travel bans and asset freezes on the Ukrainian separatist leader Alexander Borodai and 10 other rebels as residents of Donetsk flee amid fears of further attacks on the rebel stronghold.
The move came as the Ukrainian government claimed that air strikes had killed hundreds of rebel fighters in retaliation for the 23 soldiers killed by a missile strike on Friday.
Andriy Lysenko, a military spokesman, said fighter jets had struck a rebel base near Perevalsk, north of Donetsk, leaving "about 500" rebel fighters dead and destroying two tanks and 10 armoured vehicles. Further strikes had also destroyed a significant rebel base near Dzerzhinsk.
Rebel representatives denied that they had suffered big losses. "There were no volunteers [rebels] where the Ukrainian aviation was active yesterday," a spokeswoman said.
The Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, had pledged to "find and destroy" the rebels responsible for the missile attack at Zelenopillya, which also injured more than 120 troops.
The EU said Borodai was "responsible for the separatist ‘governmental’ activities of the so-called ‘government of the Donetsk People’s Republic’".
The 41-year-old Russian citizen claimed in May that he was a political adviser who helped in Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula Crimea in March and then moved to eastern Ukraine to help separatists there. He denied any links to Moscow.
Others on the EU blacklist include Alexander Khodakovsky, a defector from the Ukrainian state security service who now commands rebels, and Nikolay Kozitsyn, identified by the EU as another rebel commander.
Kiev has denounced them as terrorists and accused Russia of backing the rebellion in east Ukraine, where hundreds have died in clashes between rebels and government forces.
The additional names take the number of people under EU sanctions to 72, as well as two energy companies in Crimea.
When the sanctions were announced last week, Russia said they would damage ties with Europe.
The EU trade chief, Karel de Gucht, held talks with Russian and Ukrainian officials in Brussels on Friday and told Moscow the sanctions were not intended to damage the Russian economy.
European leaders said late last month that the EU would consider imposing more sanctions on Moscow unless pro-Russian rebels stopped their action in eastern Ukraine and began negotiations on implementing Poroshenko’s peace plan.
The president’s militant language convinced some residents of Donetsk – the new home to a flood of gunmen who have been abandoning surrounding cities since last weekend – that their city was about to be bombed. Almost 550 people have been killed in the conflict that erupted three months ago and has sparked the biggest east-west crisis since the cold war.
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