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Defiant Ukraine rebels seize Donetsk airport, halt flights

Published on May 26, 2014 6:58 PM

DONETSK, Ukraine (AFP) - Scores of armed separatists seized control of Donetsk airport on Monday, halting flights out of the rebellion-hit eastern Ukraine city in a clear signal of defiance after the country chose a new president.

The strategic transport hub was evacuated and sealed off after gunmen claiming to be from the self-declared "Donetsk People's Republic" showed up overnight demanding that Ukrainian troops guarding the airport perimeter be withdrawn.

The raid was launched in the hours after billionaire Petro Poroshenko claimed victory in a presidential election on Sunday that the pro-Russian rebels have dismissed as illegitimate.

"At 3:00 in the morning, a group of armed men came. There was no shooting," airport spokesman Dmytro Kosinov told AFP.

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