Ukraine military launches offensive against rebels

2014-06-03 11:52
A pro-Russian holds his weapon during clashes with Ukrainian troops on the outskirts of Luhansk, Ukraine. (File, AP)

A pro-Russian holds his weapon during clashes with Ukrainian troops on the outskirts of Luhansk, Ukraine. (File, AP)

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Donetsk - Ukraine's interior minister says government troops are engaged in an intense battle against pro-Russian insurgents in the eastern city of Slovyansk.

Arsen Avakov, who reported the fighting in an eastern district of the city on his Facebook page on Tuesday, said the offensive had entered a decisive stage.

An AP journalist just outside Slovyansk heard sustained gun and artillery fire and saw plumes of black smoke rising over the city.

Avakov warned residents in Slovyansk and nearby cities of Kramatorsk and Krasny Liman to stay at home.

Ukrainian authorities have repeatedly announced an escalation in armed operations, only to eventually back down.

Government forces have in recent days been noticeably reinforced to the north of Slovyansk, however, and deployment of air power over the past week has signalled increased determination.

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