Separatists Renew Attack on Airport As Russia and Ukraine Bicker

KIEV (Reuters) -

Pro-Russian separatists renewed attacks on Ukrainian forces at an airport complex in the east on Monday after Kiev launched a mass operation to reclaim lost ground there that Russia called a “strategic mistake”.

Ukrainian officials said three soldiers had been killed and 66 wounded over the past 24 hours, during which they said they had returned battle lines at the airport outside Donetsk to the status quo under a much violated international peace plan.

Russia expressed concern at what it called escalation by Kiev and published its own peace plan on Monday in the form of a letter from President Vladimir Putin to Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko, which it said Poroshenko had rejected.

“It’s the biggest, even strategic mistake of the Ukrainian authorities to bank on a military solution to the crisis,” Interfax quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin as saying. “This may lead to irreversible consequences for Ukrainian statehood.”

Ukrainian officials have insisted Moscow sticks to the 12-point peace plan agreed in Minsk in September, which they say was not violated by its airport counter-offensive, launched after troops had appeared to be pinned down inside the complex.

Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said the situation was still very tense around the airport, which has symbolic value for both sides, and separatists continued attacks on government forces there and elsewhere in the east.