Ukrainian miners, wearing uniforms decorated with work medals, attend a rally in support of the Donetsk People’s Republic in Lenin square, in Donetsk, Ukraine, Wednesday, May 28, 2014. Miners who, according to local media, have declared an open ended strike, protested against recent actions by Ukraine’s military against rebels who tried to take control of the Donetsk airport Monday but were repelled by Ukrainian forces using combat jets and helicopter gunships in clashes that killed up to 100 rebel fighters.(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — As separatists conceded that militants from Russia’s province of Chechnya had joined the rebellion, a Ukrainian government official cautioned Wednesday that its borders had become a “front line” in the crisis.
Chechnya’s Moscow-backed strongman brushed away allegations he had dispatched paramilitary forces under his command to Ukraine, saying he was powerless to stop fellow Chechens from joining the fight.
While there is no immediate indication that the Kremlin is enabling or supporting combatants from Russia crossing into Ukraine, Moscow may have to dispel suspicions it is waging a proxy war if it is to avoid more Western sanctions.
In a wide-ranging foreign policy speech at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, President Barack Obama addressed the crisis in Ukraine by saying, “Russia’s recent actions recall the days when Soviet tanks rolled into Eastern Europe.”
The Kremlin welcomed the election Sunday of billionaire Petro Poroshenko as the president of Ukraine. An advocate of strong ties with Europe, Poroshenko also favors mending relations with Russia.
He replaced the pro-Moscow leader who was driven from office in February. That ouster led to Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in southern Ukraine — which triggered the sanctions — and a violent pro-Moscow insurgency in the east.
Reports circulate almost daily of truckloads of gunmen crossing from Russia, and authorities believe they are a vital reinforcement to the armed rebel force that has repeatedly thwarted government security operations. Intense fighting from a government offensive Monday to dislodge rebels from the Donetsk airport Login to read more