In an attempt to defuse the standoff, Gen. Krutov came out to speak to the crowd picketing the airport but was attacked by them.
While he spoke of repelling an attack, the new government in Kiev declared that its forces had recaptured the airport from militiamen.
“I just got a call from the Donetsk region: Ukrainian special forces have liberated the airport in the city of Kramatorsk from terrorists,” Turchynov told parliament. “I’m convinced that there will not be any terrorists left soon in Donetsk and other regions and they will find themselves in the dock - this is where they belong.”
The United States yesterday gave its tacit support to Ukrainian military action against pro-Russian militia. This is not the preferred option, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, but that the Ukrainian government has to respond to what he says is an untenable situation.
What was clear is that the area bordering Russia is getting increasingly armed and unstable. Russia itself also has tens of thousands of troops stationed along the border, which Western officials say is adding to the region’s instability.
Earlier yesterday, an Associated Press reporter saw at least 14 armored personnel carriers with Ukrainian flags, helicopters and military trucks parked 40 kilometers (24 miles) north of the city. Other heavy military equipment appeared nearby, along with at least seven busloads of government troops in black military fatigues.
“We are awaiting the order to move on Slovyansk,” said one soldier, who gave only his first name, Taras.
Two of the helicopters loaded with troops were later seen taking off and flying toward Slovyansk. Witnesses said helicopters delivered several dozen troops to the Kramatorsk military airfield.
The clash was viewed entirely differently by Ukraine and Russia.
Ukraine’s ex-prime minister and presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko said Tuesday what Kiev was seeing in the country’s east was, in effect, a war.