In a three-hour battle near the airport of Kramatorsk, rebels
attacked the army with mortars but government forces returned fire,
destroying their position and killing 40 "mercenaries", said the
spokesman, Vladyslav Seleznyov.
This figure could not be independently confirmed and there was no
immediate word from the side of the separatists.
In Slaviansk, just north of Kramatorsk, two Ukrainian soldiers were
wounded when rebels, who control the city, attacked an army position
on the perimeter using grenade-launchers.
In Luhansk, on the border with Russia, separatist fighters opened
fire on the airport and nearby Ukrainian army positions.
"The attack of the (separatist) fighters was repelled by special
force units. There are no losses on the Ukrainian side," said
Separatist rebellions broke out in Russian-speaking regions of
eastern Ukraine in April after street protests in the capital Kiev
toppled a Moscow-backed president. Scores of separatists, members of
government forces and civilians have been killed.
Kiev has accused Moscow of fomenting the unrest and allowing
mercenaries from Russia to cross the long border with consignments
of arms to support the rebels. Moscow denies this.
Ukraine's newly-elected pro-Western president, Petro Poroshenko, who
took office on Saturday, has pledged to end the fighting while
promising to address the legitimate grievances of people in the
east, by for example granting them greater autonomy and guaranteeing
the status of the Russian language.
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Ukraine said on Monday it had reached a "mutual understanding" with
Russia on parts of a peace plan proposed by Poroshenko, though it
gave no details and Moscow made no direct comment on the issue.
However, the overnight clashes demonstrated the continuing high
tensions in the hot spots of eastern Ukraine.
In a separate initiative, Poroshenko ordered security chiefs to
establish a "safety corridor" to help civilians caught up in the
fighting to leave the area if they wished, his press service said on
Poroshenko also told the government to organize medical assistance
to civilians in areas at risk and to send in mobile units to deliver
drinking water, food and medical supplies.
(Writing by Richard Balmforth; Editing by Gareth Jones)
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