Ukraine Government Claims Heavy Rebel
Losses As Fighting Rages On
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[June 04, 2014]
DONETSK Ukraine (Reuters) -
Government forces pressed on with an offensive in eastern Ukraine on
Wednesday, claiming they had inflicted heavy losses on separatist
fighters, though this was denied by the rebels.
A spokesman for Kiev's "anti-terrorist operation" said more than
300 rebel fighters had been killed and about 500 wounded in fierce
fighting in the past 24 hours in and around the city of Slaviansk, a
strategically located separatist stronghold.
Government forces used aircraft, helicopters and artillery in a
fierce attack to try to root out the separatists who have controlled
Slaviansk and surrounding areas since early April.
But the rebels on Wednesday denied the government's casualty
figures. "Reports of 300 dead are not true. Losses to the Ukrainian
side were more than ours," Aleksander Boroday, "prime minister" of
the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, was quoted as saying
by Interfax news agency.
Describing the fighting as "heavy", the government forces spokesman,
Vladyslav Seleznyov, said two servicemen had been killed and 45
Fighting was continuing in Slaviansk region and mopping-up
operations were underway in the nearby town of Krasny Liman, which
he said government forces had taken control of on Tuesday.
President-elect Petro Poroshenko ordered the resumption of
operations by government forces to quell the rebellion by
pro-Russian militia in the Russian-speaking east soon after scoring
a resounding victory in an election on May 25.
The Kiev government says the fighting is being stirred up by Moscow,
which opposes its pro-Western course. Kiev also accuses Russia of
letting volunteer fighters cross into Ukraine to fight alongside the
rebels. Moscow denies this and is urging Ukraine to end military
operations and open dialogue with the separatists.
Since government forces resumed their push against the rebels, there
have been clashes in and around the main industrial hub of Donetsk
and near the border town of Luhansk, with loss of life on both
But it is not clear what real progress the Ukrainian military -
whose initial efforts in April to root out the rebels flopped with
defections and loss of military equipment - are making against the
rebels who occupy strategic points in densely populated cities.
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Slaviansk, a town of about 130,000 and located at the centre of the
three main regions of eastern Ukraine, was quickly taken under the
control of the rebels in early April and government forces have had
little success in weakening their grip on the city.
The offensive in Slaviansk followed a daylong firefight on Monday in
Luhansk, a town further to the east on the Russian border, after an
attack by separatists on a border guard camp.
Government forces acknowledged on Wednesday that the border guard
camp had been evacuated and personnel had left with their weapons,
though the separatists described this as a surrender.
Zhanna, a resident of a nearby apartment block, said she saw guns
and ammunition being removed from the base. "The (separatist)
militia has taken over the building and lowered the Ukrainian flag,"
(Additional reporting by Thomas Grove and Pavel Polityuk; Writing by
Richard Balmforth; Editing by Giles Elgood)
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