Separatists hit Ukrainian vessel in first naval attack of war

by Reuters
Sunday, 31 August 2014 16:38 GMT

(Adds rebel comment, background)

KIEV, Aug 31 (Reuters) - Separatist rebels attacked a Ukrainian naval vessel in the Azov Sea on Sunday by firing artillery from the shore, and a Ukrainian military spokesman said a rescue operation was under way.

Spokesman Andriy Lysenko said the vessel was a naval cutter. There was no information on the number of people on board.

The pro-Russian rebels claimed responsibility for the attack.

The separatists have been fighting government forces since April in a conflict that has killed some 2,600 people, but this was the first naval attack of the war.

It came after rebel forces opened a new front in the fighting last week, breaking through to the Azov Sea in Ukraine's southeast.

"The militia have dealt the enemy their first naval defeat," Igor Strelkov, a former separatist military commander, said on the social media network VKontakte. (Reporting by Pavel Polityuk and Aleksandar Vasovic; Writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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