The Ukrainian military staged an airborne assault and air attacks against pro-Russian separatists who seized the biggest airport in eastern Ukraine early Monday. But hours of gun battles left the strategic facility in dispute, and the fighting spread to city of Donetsk.
Even as ballots were being counted in Kiev after Ukraine’s historic presidential election, at least 10 Russian-made Mi-8 and Mi-24 helicopters landed troops at the airport early Monday afternoon, touching off a volley of rebel fire from automatic small arms and anti-aircraft weapons.
Later, helicopters fired rockets and cannon at anti-aircraft emplacements, a Reuters photographer reported.
Gun battles continued throughout the afternoon, but the insurgents appeared to hold on to the initiative. It took the Ukrainian military 11 hours to send in reinforcements, but it never blocked the sole road to the airport, over which insurgents twice sent additional troops.