An armed group of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine said Friday it had seized control of an airfield in the region and accused Ukrainian forces of launching a “major offensive” against the town of Kramatorsk.
The Donetsk People’s Republic, or DPR, said its fighters took control of the airport and other military installations near the town on Friday and launched a series of retaliatory attacks on Ukrainian troops.
The rebel movement also said it was advancing on the city of Sloviansk, another city that Ukrainian forces have been pressing to break through to the separatist-held areas of eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Thursday he was sending a convoy of tanks and armored vehicles to the Donetsk region and urged Russia to help the separatists regain control of areas it seized from Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused Ukraine of using “unprecedented measures” to “flee” Russian speakers in eastern and southern Ukraine.
He also has warned of military retaliation against any attempts to break Ukraine out of the conflict.
Ukriyansk has been under a state of emergency since the conflict broke out in 2014.
It was largely freed of Ukrainian forces in February after months of fighting and was the site of the 2014 Orange Revolution that overthrew pro-Western president Viktor Yanukovych.