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Ukraine: 49 dead as rebels down military plane

Novohannivka (Ukraine): Pro-Russia separatists shot down a Ukrainian military transport plane today, killing all 49 crew and troops aboard in a bloody escalation of the conflict in the country's restive east.It was a bitter setback
India TV News Desk June 14, 2014 23:13 IST
India TV News Desk
Novohannivka (Ukraine): Pro-Russia separatists shot down a Ukrainian military transport plane today, killing all 49 crew and troops aboard in a bloody escalation of the conflict in the country's restive east.

It was a bitter setback for the Ukrainian forces, which have struggled to suppress an armed insurgency by foes of the new government, and came only a week after the new president, billionaire candy magnate Petro Poroshenko, spoke about a peace plan in his inaugural address.

Yet the incident, the deadliest for the Ukrainian military in the four-month-old conflict, suggested the two sides were very much still at odds. Poroshenko called an emergency meeting of Ukraine's national Security Council and declared Sunday a day of national mourning.

The US government reiterated its support for Poroshenko's government and rejected Russia's statements that it was not arming the rebels. It said Russia clearly had sent tanks and rocket launchers to the rebels, making sure the unmarked tanks were of a type not currently being used by Russian forces.

“We condemn the shooting down of the Ukrainian military plane and continue to be deeply concerned about the situation in eastern Ukraine, including by the fact that militant and separatist groups have received heavy weapons from Russia, including tanks, which is a significant escalation,” said White House spokeswoman Laura Lucas Magnuson.

Analysts said the downing of the plane could bring a renewed emphasis on increasing sanctions against Russia.

The loss of the plane “will refocus attention on the fact that Russia does not seem to be doing very much to moderate the insurgency (or) the cross-border resupply of separatists,” said Timothy Ash, an analyst at Standard Bank PLC.

“Comments from US officials are now quite specific, and I would expect the focus to return to sanctions next week,” he said.

Nine crew and 40 troops were aboard the Il-76 troop transport when it went down early Saturday as it approached the airport at Luhansk, the Ukrainian prosecutor general's office said.

Luhansk is in eastern Ukraine near the border with Russia, an area where separatists have seized government buildings and declared independence. Ukrainian forces still control the Luhansk airport, however.