Pro-Russian insurgents have allegedly abducted two Ukrainian soldiers in the eastern region of Lugansk, according to Ukraine's defence ministry, following the separatists' seizure of six armoured vehicles in Kramatorsk.
The ministry said an officer and a soldier were taken hostages by "extremists" and taken to an unknown destination. It promised a "firm response" against armed rebels attacking Ukrainian troops and said the acting defence minister Ihor Tenyukh was travelling to Kramatorsk to clarify the situation.
Ukraine has launched a full-scale military operation to uproot what it has branded "terrorism" in the east of the country with the aim of flushing out pro-Kremlin insurgents and protesters from government buildings across 10 towns and cities. Ukraine troops stormed an airfield between Kramatorsk and Slavyansk and began firing at pro-Russian insurgents who had occupied the area, according to local reports.
Ukraine security service revealed that it had intercepted communications indicating a Russian commander in the east of the country issued pro-Kremlin troops with "shoot-to-kill" orders.
The intercepted communications "show that sabotage operations in the east of Ukraine are being openly led by regular officers from the Russian military intelligence, who have issued cynical shoot-to-kill orders against Ukrainian soldiers," the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) said in a statement.
Acting prime minister Arseny Yatseniuk accused Russia of "exporting terrorism" by using covert forces to organise armed rebels. "The Russian government must immediately call off its intelligence-diversionary groups, condemn the terrorists and demand that they free the buildings," Yatseniuk told a government meeting.
"That is, if the Russian Federation is interested in stabilising the situation, which I have significant doubts about," he added.