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#Ukraine troops attack Donetsk airport rebels

Jets, helicopters and soldiers storm facility taken by pro-RussiansUkraine has launched air raids and a ground assault against rebels who seized Donetsk's international airport, as the country's new president promised to reassert control in the east and refused to negotiate with "terrorists".

Attack helicopters and jets fired on rebel positions in Monday's operation, while Ukrainian troops were also sent in for a ground offensive. Ukrainian troops blocked access to the site as huge plumes of smoke were seen coming from the area.

The operation came a day after Ukrainians voted in Petro Poroshenko as its new president, and hours after pro-Russian rebels stormed the airport, demanding Ukraine troops leave.

The airport serves a city of one million people, which the rebels have proclaimed capital of an independent "people's republic", and where they succeeded in blocking all voting in Sunday's presidential election.

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The attempt to seize the airport may have been intended to prevent Poroshenko from travelling there: he has said his first trip in office would be to visit the restive east.

'Bandit state'

Poroshenko promised to talk with those in the east who have grievances, but not to those who have taken up weapons.

"They want to preserve a bandit state which is held in place by force of arms," he said. "These are simply bandits. Nobody in any civilised state will hold negotiations with terrorists."

Preliminary results with about half of votes counted gave Poroshenko 53.7 percent of the vote - towering over a field of 21 candidates with enough support to avert a run-off.

His closest challenger, former premier Yulia Tymoshenko, secured just 13.1 percent and made clear she would concede.

Poroshenko made clear his most urgent task is finding a modus vivendi with the giant neighbour that has seemed poised to carve Ukraine up since a popular revolt toppled a pro-Russian president in February.

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, who last month described eastern Ukraine as "New Russia", has made more accommodating statements in recent days.

He promised at the weekend that Moscow would respect the will of Ukrainians, and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov repeated that promise on Monday in saying Russia was ready for dialogue with Poroshenko.


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