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LUGANSK, July 6 /ITAR-TASS/. Kiev’s military and self-defense militia exchanged mortar fire as armed clashes continued last night near the Lugansk airport controlled by the Ukrainian law-enforcers, the press office of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic said on Sunday.
Combat operations are also continuing near the settlements of Mettalist and Krasny Yar, as well as near the Izvarino checkpoint which is controlled by the local self-defense militia, the press office said.
A signature-collecting point has been opened in the center of Lugansk to sign an appeal to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon with a demand to stop Kiev’s aggression against civilians.
Health Minister of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic Viktor Avakyan said on Saturday that at least 80 people, including 56 civilians and 24 self-defense fighters, had been taken to Lugansk hospitals as a result of bombings and shelling by the Ukrainian military.
Ukraine has been in turmoil since the end of last year, when then-President Viktor Yanukovych suspended the signing of an association agreement with the European. His decision triggered anti-government protests that often turned violent and eventually led to a coup in February 2014.
New people were brought to power in Kiev amid riots and ultranationalist rhetoric. Crimea refused to recognize the coup-imposed authorities, held a referendum and seceded from Ukraine to reunify with Russia in mid-March after some 60 years as part of Ukraine. The West and Kiev do not recognize Crimea's reunification with Russia.
Crimea’s example apparently inspired residents of Ukraine’s Southeast, who supported the country’s federalization. They started massive protests and formed militias. Since mid-April, Kiev has been conducting a punitive operation against federalization supporters in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.
Kiev’s operation against federalization supporters in Ukraine's embattled southeastern regions bordering Russia, which involves armored vehicles, heavy artillery and attack aviation, has already resulted in hundreds of deaths, destroyed buildings and forced tens of thousands of people to cross the border from Ukraine to Russia.