Wed, May 07, 2014 - Page 1 News List

Fighting in eastern Ukraine claims 34 lives

AP, DONETSK, Ukraine

A dog looks at a pro-Russia activist standing in front of the occupied Ukrainian security service building in Lugansk, Ukraine, on Monday.

Photo: EPA

Thirty pro-Russia insurgents and four government troops have been killed during operations to expunge anti-government forces around a key eastern city, the Ukrainian interior minister reported yesterday.

Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov gave the death toll on his Facebook page yesterday, adding that 20 government troops were also injured during fighting in Slovyansk, a city of 125,000.

It was not exactly clear when the deaths took place.

Gunbattles around the city on Monday were the interim government’s most ambitious effort to date to quell weeks of unrest in the country’s mainly Russian-speaking east.

Avakov said on Monday about 800 pro-Russia forces in and around Slovyansk were deploying large-caliber weapons and mortars, and there were injured on both sides.

By yesterday morning, Ukrainian forces had taken hold of a key checkpoint north of the city, dealing a blow to insurgents’ lines of communication. The checkpoint had come under repeated attack since the government offensive began.

In Donetsk, a major city 120km south of Slovyansk, international flights were suspended yesterday. Donetsk airport said the cancellations followed a government order.

Ukraine is facing its worst crisis in decades as the polarized nation of 46 million tries to decide whether to look toward Europe, as its western regions want to do, or improve ties with Russia, which is favored by the country’s many Russian-speakers in the east. Dozens of government offices and police stations in eastern Ukraine have been seized by armed insurgents and anti-government crowds over the past weeks.

Ukraine blames Moscow for fomenting the unrest in the east, saying it is an attempt to derail Ukraine’s May 25 presidential election.

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