Security sources said on Thursday the main clash took place about
20 km (12 miles) south of the industrial hub of Donetsk, which is
now in the hands of the separatists who say they will disrupt the
Ukrainian forces also fought separatists in the neighboring Luhansk
region but there was no word about any casualties there.
The defense ministry confirmed that several people had been killed
in the firefight near Donetsk but gave no precise death toll. It
said the clash occurred when gunmen opened fire on an army
checkpoint near the town of Volnovakha.
Separately, Ukrainian border guards said they had rebuffed an
attempt by dozens of separatists, armed with grenade launchers and
rifles, to enter the Luhansk region overnight from Russia. Several
guards were hurt in the fighting.
Ukrainian security forces and the pro-Moscow separatists have
clashed repeatedly in recent weeks in eastern Ukraine, where the
breakdown of security has rattled the pro-Western interim government
Kiev has acknowledged that Sunday's election cannot be held in parts
of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and has accused Moscow of
deliberately seeking to undermine Ukrainian democracy, a charge
echoed by the United States and European Union.
[to top of second column]
Russia denies the legitimacy of the current Kiev government, which
took over after mass street protests toppled Moscow-backed
president Viktor Yanukovich in February. He fled to Russia and in
March Russia seized Ukraine's Black Sea peninsula of Crimea.
President Vladimir Putin asserts that Moscow has the right to
intervene on behalf of Russian speakers outside Russia's borders and
has expressed sympathy for people in eastern Ukraine who he says
face discrimination and harassment by the Kiev government.
(Reporting By Pavel Polityuk and Natalia Ziniets,; Writing by Gareth
Jones, Editing by Angus MacSwan)
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