Hundreds of armed insurgents attacked a border guards’ camp in eastern Ukraine, a spokesman for the guards said Monday.
As many as 100 pro-Russian fighters assaulted the border guard headquarters in Mirny, a residential suburb of Lugansk, at 4am on Monday, Ukraine’s border guard service said in a statement.
Rebels in uniform near the Luhansk base promised safety for the officers if they surrendered and laid down their arms. The pro-Russian insurgents, who have seized government and police buildings across eastern Ukraine, have waged increasingly aggressive attacks on government-held checkpoints and garrisons in an attempt to seize weapons and ammunition from Ukrainian forces.
Serhiy Astakhov, the spokesman for the border guard service, told The Associated Press by telephone that a preliminary assessment indicated that five rebels were killed and eight injured in the attack on the camp in Luhansk, a major city not far from the Russian border. He also said seven servicemen were injured, three seriously.
Vladislav Seleznyov, press secretary for Ukraine’s operation against the rebels in the east, described the base as an important coordinating node for border guards across the province, and said the attack may have been an attempt to disrupt communications.
Seleznyov also said there was another rebel attack Monday on a government checkpoint in Slovyansk, a city in the Donetsk region that has been an epicenter of the pro-Russian movement. He said rebels had mined a number of power plants in Slovyansk, which he claimed would be detonated if the government were to move on the city.
The fighting comes exactly a week after Ukrainian and pro-Russian forces fought a bloody battle for Donetsk airport, marking a major escalation in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.