DONETSK, Ukraine - Ukraine said Tuesday it had regained control of the airport in the eastern city of Donetsk after a day of punishing air strikes and fierce fighting with pro-Russian separatist gunmen left dozens of people dead.
The battle for the main transport hub in the rebel-held east erupted on Monday, in a sharp escalation of the conflict after president-elect Petro Poroshenko vowed to take a tough stand against the "terrorists".
"The airport is under our full control. The enemy suffered heavy losses. We have none," Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said in a statement.
He said however that the military was continuing its operation at the airport, and AFP journalists reported hearing explosions and heavy gunfire during the morning.
Donetsk mayor Oleksandr Lukyanchenko told reporters that two civilians and 38 combatants had died, while rebel leaders suggested that the toll among their ranks could be higher.
An AFP correspondent reported seeing body parts and blood splattered near a bullet-riddled truck on the airport road, where makeshift blockades had been set up with dumper trucks and piles of tyres.