Poroshenko vows 'act of terror' will be 'punished'
Pro-Russian insurgents take down Ukrainian plane, killing 49 people
Ukraine's new president promised "punishment" yesterday when pro-Russian insurgents shot down a transport aircraft, killing 49 military personnel in the bloodiest loss for the security forces since the rebellion began.
The Ilyushin-76 (IL-76) was destroyed as it came in to land at Luhansk Airport shortly before 1am local time.
Footage from a CCTV camera shows an explosion lighting up the night sky over the city, followed by a second detonation apparently caused by the plane hitting the ground.
There is no sign of anti-aircraft gunfire in the sequence. Footage taken from a second camera then shows a fire burning fiercely on the ground, apparently from the site of the crash outside Luhansk.
The IL-76 was carrying 40 Ukrainian soldiers along with nine crew and an undisclosed quantity of military supplies. The defence ministry in Kiev confirmed the deaths of all on board.
Petro Poroshenko, the newly elected president of Ukraine, denounced the "act of terror", saying those involved would "be punished".
Luhansk, a regional capital with a population of 430,000, is held by pro-Russian insurgents who also control much of the surrounding region.
But government forces retained control of the small airport outside Luhansk.
While making daylight landings in Donetsk or Luhansk, Ukrainian military aircraft routinely fire decoy flares to confuse heat-seeking missiles. The CCTV footage suggests the IL-76 may not have been taking such a precaution, perhaps because a night-time approach was judged to be safer.
On Friday, soldiers drove pro-Russian rebels from their last strongholds in Mariupol, the second biggest city in Donetsk region with a population of 500,000. Aided by a pro-Ukrainian workers' militia, the security forces retook almost all of Mariupol last month. But the insurgents managed to hold out inside the main municipal building in the city centre, which they first occupied in April.
They were finally evicted on Friday after a fierce gun battle, involving the use of Ukrainian armoured vehicles. The authorities said five rebels were killed.
Earlier, the true extent of Russian military support for the rebels became clearer when three T-64 tanks appeared inside eastern Ukraine. The obsolete models had apparently been taken from military stores inside Russia and then driven over the border. Government forces later claimed to have destroyed one of the tanks.
Yesterday, security forces discovered a bomb planted near Mr Poroshenko's office. A source said the "powerful device" was made safe.
Yesterday, Russia sent a conciliatory signal by agreeing to restart negotiations with Ukraine over gas supplies.