At Least 14 Killed in Deadliest Attack Yet on Ukrainian Soldiers

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At least 14 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed and dozens more injured after an attack on an army outpost ahead of Sunday's nationwide elections. The Associated Press reports that pro-Russian insurgents attacked the troops at a border checkpoint in Donetsk, where separatists have voted for independence from the rest of the country, killing at least 11 Ukrainian soldiers and wounding 30: 

AP journalists saw 11 bodies scattered around a checkpoint near the village of Blahodatne, 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of the major city of Donetsk. Witnesses said more than 30 Ukrainian troops were wounded when the insurgents attacked and that some of them were in grave condition. Three charred Ukrainian armored infantry vehicles, their turrets blown away, and several burned trucks were seen at the site.

The BBC has since reported the death toll at 14: 

The AP adds that the Ukrainian Defense Ministry confirmed that the attack had taken place, but didn't comment on the number of casualties sustained.  

A rebel commander told the AP that he was responsible for the attack, showing journalists the weapons he had seized from the Ukrainian troops and adding, "People living in western Ukraine: Think about where you are sending your brothers, fathers and sons, and why you need any of this."

Ukraine's interim Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk called for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council, saying he has proof that Russia was involved in the violent episode. 

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The Kyiv Post reports that rebels in Luhansk, who have also voted for independence, have declared a state of martial law until troops withdraw from the area. Valeriy Bolotov, held of the so-called Luhansk People's Republic, told journalists that "In connection with the start of unilateral military action by the Ukrainian Armed Forces on the territory of the Luhansk People's Republic, I order the introduction of martial law on the territory of the Luhansk People's Republic and full mobilization."

The violence raises fears that this weekend's vote, when Ukrainians will choose a president to replace the ousted Viktor Yanukovych and other top ministers will be a dangerous affair.

Meanwhile, Russian troops are reportedly finally pulling back from the border, after promising to do so on two occasions, although tensions will obviously remain high throughout the voting this weekend.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.