border guards clash with rebels near Russian border: military
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[August 25, 2014]
KIEV (Reuters) - Ukrainian
government forces engaged with a separatist armored column near the
southeastern town of Novoazovsk, about 10 km (6 miles) from the Russian
border, Ukraine's military said on Monday.
Border guards halted the advance of the column about 5 km
northeast of the town, which is on the Azov Sea, it said in a
The new military thrust by the rebels, which a pro-government
militia commander said might be aimed at capturing the
government-held port city of Mariupul, appeared to open up a new
southern front in the five-month conflict in Ukraine's east.
Fighting has been hithero concentrated around the two big rebel-held
cities of Donetsk and Luhansk to the north.
The commander of a Ukrainian national guard unit in the area near
Novoazovsk where the fighting was reported to be happening told
Reuters by telephone: "A war has broken out here." He said he could
not speak and ended the conversation.
Semen Semenchenko, commander of the pro-government Azov militia,
said on his Facebook page that around 50 armored vehicles had
crossed the border from Russia.
About 40 of them were trying to move in the direction of Mariupol
while the remainder were moving north towards Amvrosiyivka, he said.
"The invasion of the Russian occupiers is taking place," he said.
The attacking forces were, for now, "localized and easily
neutralized" and there had been up to now no fighting around
Mariupol itself, he added.
The column's movement towards Novoazovsk had been accompanied by
artillery shelling from across the border, he said.
Lyudmila, a resident of Novoazovsk who was reached by telephone,
said: "Everything began at 8 o'clock this morning. Tanks appeared -
no fewer than 7 of them, and Grads (rockets) and armored vehicles."
[to top of second column]
She said some of the tanks bore flags with emblems of a separatist
group calling itself the Orthodox Liberation Army.
She said the rebel forces had occupied the village of Markine, about
7 kms away from Novoazovsk and were firing on the town.
"Novoazovsk has died. People are hiding (from the shelling). We
heard rumors of an invasion just a couple of days ago. The Ukrainian
flag has been taken down on the city council offices," she said.
Asked at a news conference in Moscow about reports of an incursion
across the border from Russia into the area of Ukraine near Markine,
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said: "I have not heard of
this, but there is plenty of disinformation out there about our
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; additional reporting by Lina Kushch;
Writing by Alessandra Prentice and Richard Balmforth; editing by
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