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Ukrainian Troops Killed In Fighting Near Slovyansk

May 05, 2014

Ukraine's Interior Ministry says four Ukrainian troops were killed and 30 injured around the eastern city of Slovyansk in heavy fighting with pro-Russian militants occupying the city.

The Interior Ministry said the militants controlling Slovyansk were using civilians as human shields and were shooting from houses, some of which were on fire.

It said there were civilian casualties but did not say how many.

Interior Ministry Arsen Avakov said earlier on May 5 that government troops were facing about 800 militants allegedly using heavy weapons.

Avakov said troops would try to advance 'little by little' towards the center of Slovyansk where the pro-Russian rebels have seized the town hall, police headquarters, and the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) building.

They are also holding several people captive, including the mayor.

Slovyansk, a town of some 140,000, is one of a string of cities in eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian rebels.

The government has vowed to continue an 'antiterrorist' operation it launched on April 15 until it regains control. So far, the military offensive has had limited success.

Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov has said Russia 'is at war' with his country.

Turchynov, on May 4, also accused Russia of trying to 'destabilize the situation completely' in eastern and southern Ukraine.

His comments came after more than 40 people were killed in the southern port city of Odesa on May 2, the bloodiest violence in Ukraine since President Viktor Yanukovych fled the country after he was ousted in February.

Most of the victims died in a blaze after firebombs were thrown into a building where pro-Russia demonstrators had sought refuge amid street fighting.

Pro-Russia activists attending the funeral on May 5 of one of the victims vowed to seize government buildings in Odesa.

Russia denies the Ukrainian government's accusations that it is fomenting the violence in southern and eastern Ukraine.

In a report released on May , the Russian Foreign Ministry warned that failure to halt the escalating unrest in Ukraine would threaten peace across Europe.

It also alleged that there had been rights violations on a 'mass scale' by Ukrainian ultranationalists.

With reporting by AFP, Interfax, Pravda.com.ua, and dpa

Source: http://www.rferl.org/content/ukraine-slovyansk-heavy-fighting/25373508.html

Copyright (c) 2014. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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