At least 11 people have died in an attack on a military checkpoint in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine as growing violence threatens to disrupt Sunday’s presidential election.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense confirms to Fox News that there was an attack. Associated Press reporters at the scene saw 11 bodies at the Ukrainian military checkpoint in the village of Blahodatne, 20 miles southeast of Donetsk.
Witnesses told the AP that the checkpoint was attacked by pro-Russian insurgents who wounded 33 more Ukrainian troops.
Three charred Ukrainian armored infantry vehicles, their turrets blown away, and several burned trucks were seen at the site, in one of two regions in eastern Ukraine that have declared independence from the interim government in Kiev. A military helicopter landed, carrying officials who inspected the area.
Residents said attackers used an armored bank truck, which the unsuspecting Ukrainian soldiers waved through, and then mowed them down at point-blank range. Their account couldn’t be independently confirmed.
In the town of Horlivka, a rebel commander claimed responsibility for the raid and showed an array of seized Ukrainian weapons.
“We destroyed a checkpoint of the fascist Ukrainian army deployed on the land of the Donetsk Republic,” said the commander, who wore a balaclava and identified himself by his nom de guerre, “Bes,” Russian for “demon.”
“The weapons you see here have been taken from the dead, they are trophies,” he said, showing automatic and sniper rifles, rocket grenade launchers and bulletproof vests in the courtyard of the occupied Horlivka city police headquarters.
“People living in western Ukraine: Think about where you are sending your brothers, fathers and sons, and why you need any of this,” the commander said.
On Thursday, a Fox News reporter in Donetsk also witnessed a raid by rebels on a district election office. The rebels took election material and an election official.
“We are stopping an illegal election,” one rebel told Fox News.
Thursday’s carnage in Donetsk cast a shadow over Ukraine’s presidential vote on Sunday, which separatists in the east have pledged to derail. The authorities in Kiev see the vote as a chance to defuse tensions and stabilize the country. Even so, they have admitted it will be impossible to stage the vote in some eastern areas where election officials and voters have faced intimidation and sometimes death threats from the rebels.
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