(MENAFN - Arab News) Dolzhansky: ukraine said thursday it had abandoned three checkpoints on the russian border after a series of night-time attacks by separatists and afp reporters on the scene said at least one had been taken over by the militants.
the decision to leave the border posts came as the government vowed to beef up its security presence to counter pro-russian rebels amid reports of continued fighting in the country's east.
the three checkpoints all in the volatile lugansk region were targeted in attacks by pro-russian rebels overnight wednesday to thursday the border guards said in a statement.
'after an exchange of fire the threat to the lives of people crossing the border prompted the evacuation of civilians and border guards at the checkpoints" the statement said.
on thursday afternoon ukraine's blue-and-yellow flag no longer flew over the border post at dolzhansky after it had been taken over by about 10 armed pro-russian rebels who allowed vehicles to pass in both directions.
numerous civilians were also crossing into russia on foot with suitcases and bags of belongings seeking refuge from the hostilities on the ukrainian side.
'the ukrainian border guards numbered about 50 and left toward 5 a.m. today" said vitaly bliznyuk the commander of a group of pro-russian fighters.
'when we got here we noticed that the border guards had already left and had detonated their ammunition beforehand" he told afp.
ukraine's border guards have been a prime target of recent rebel attacks and had to abandon their regional headquarters in the city of lugansk after an insurgent onslaught on monday.
kiev says combatants are crossing frequently from russia some having traveled from the caucasus region.
russia says several thousand refugees cross the border in the other direction every day a claim which ukraine denies. 'instead of opening up its borders to all who wish to escape from the combat zone they have closed it. it's a complete scandal and unacceptable" said russian foreign ministry spokesman alexander lukashevich.
sporadic gunfire continued across the restive eastern region on thursday with rebels still controlling key administrative buildings in the main city of donetsk.
'the night passed relatively quietly. according to residents in the village of shyroke gunshots could be heard" the self-proclaimed 'people's republic of donetsk" said in a statement.
donetsk home to about one million people has been reduced to a state of near-anarchy following heavy fighting between ukrainian forces and pro-russian rebels around its international airport.
the fighting has left about 40 dead mainly separatists. the airport will remain closed at least until the end of the month as the security of flights cannot be guaranteed.
the streets of donetsk are nearly deserted and under the control of insurgents who man numerous checkpoints in the area.
ukrainian forces launched an 'anti-terrorist operation" nearly two months ago. they intensified their activities on tuesday concentrating their efforts on the rebel stronghold of slavyansk around 100 kilometers north of donetsk.
two ukrainian soldiers have lost their lives in this week's fighting while numerous insurgents have been killed according to kiev.