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Armed standoff in southeastern Ukraine continues

July 10, 2014, 19:28 UTC+3 DONETSK/LUGANSK

Ukrainian army's units and the National Guard use armored vehicles, aviation and subversive groups in high-sided trucks that deliver mortar fire on inhabited localities

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© AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka
© ITAR-TASS/Sergei Kozlov

DONETSK/LUHANSK, July 10. /ITAR-TASS/. An active armed standoff of military units and militias continues in Ukraine’s embattled south-east within the boundaries of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s republics.

According to reports from the region, Ukrainian army's units and the National Guard use armored vehicles, aviation and subversive groups in high-sided trucks that deliver mortar fire on inhabited localities.

The area controlled by Ukrainian security officials is gradually expanding. The number of localities recaptured in the past few days by the Ukrainian army — Sloviansk, Kramatorsk, Druzhkivka and Kostiantynivka now contains one more town in the Donetsk Region — Siversk, which militiamen had tried to turn into a fortified area.

Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) Defense Minister Igor Strelkov said Thursday that “the city was abandoned to prevent being surrounded.” Now trench warfare is underway on approaches to the nearby village of Karlovka, where, according to Strelkov, “attacks are being repelled and two Ukrainian tanks were shot down.”

In the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR), Ukrainian military are on the outskirts of Lugansk with long-range artillery near the airport and the nearby villages of Metallist and Stanitsa. Militiamen shell them from distant positions. An armored personnel carrier was reportedly hit and a mortar firing point was reportedly destroyed.

Militiamen are chasing down subversive groups in Luhansk and Kiev delivers artillery fire on Luhansk’s industrial enterprises. The Krasnodonugol coal mining combine was hit, and miners had to be evacuated.

Traffic was stopped around the Lugansktsentrokuz plant producing forged and stamping items for automobile and railroad transport due to the shelling. A Ukrainian Air Force plane made a missile strike on Luhansk’s industrial area.

The situation is getting more and more complicated near the Ukrainian border-crossing point of Izvarino. Nearby is the “Donetsk” checkpoint from the Russian side, where customs officers were evacuated. Shooting can also be heard near the international automobile border-crossing point “Novoshakhtinsk”.

There is also no traffic through the Kuibyshevo multi-way automobile border-crossing point because the adjacent Ukrainian checkpoint “Marinovka” has stopped working.

Emergency regime in Russian regions amid refugee inflow

The regime of an emergency situation has been introduced in six Russian regions - the Volgograd, Rostov, Astrakhan regions, the Stavropol Territory, Kalmykia and the federal Russian city of Sevastopol due to the flow of refugees from Ukraine.

According to the Emergency Situations Ministry, the number of Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war-torn southeastern regions of the country who have been accommodated at temporary accommodation centers in Russia has exceeded 20,000 people.

Prospects of ending the military raid

Official Kiev says it military operation in Ukraine’s Southeast will be completed within a month. Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Stanislav Rechinsky said Thursday everything “is going on smoothly.”

Meanwhile, large facilities are more often mined in the conflict zone. In the Donetsk Region, an automobile bridge was damaged in the Artemovsk District on the Rostov-Kharkov highway, a railroad bridge was blown up near the Novobakhmutovka village, and a bridge across the Seversky Donets River near the Zakotnoye village was blown up. A bridge across the Seversky Donets was also blown up in the Luhansk Region.

Victims and death toll

According to the press center of Kiev’s army operation in southeastern Ukraine, in total, 173 Ukrainian servicemen were killed and 446 wounded over the period of combat activities in Ukraine’s Southeast.

According to Ukraine’s Health Ministry, 478 civilians have been killed and 1,392 wounded during Kiev’s military operation.

How it all began

At the end of last year, Ukraine’s then-President Viktor Yanukovych suspended the signing of an association agreement with the European Union to study the deal more thoroughly. 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.

Despite Moscow’s repeated statements that the Crimean referendum on secession from Ukraine was in line with the international law and the UN Charter and in conformity with the precedent set by Kosovo’s secession from Serbia in 2008, the West and Kiev have refused to recognize the legality of 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.

The Donetsk and Luhansk regions bordering Russia held referendums on May 11, in which most voters supported independence from Ukraine. South Ossetia has recognized the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic and the Luhansk People's Republic. No other countries have followed suit so far.

Since mid-April, Kiev has been conducting a punitive operation against federalization supporters, which has already claimed hundreds of lives, destroyed buildings and forced tens of thousands to flee Ukraine. Moscow has repeatedly called on the Ukrainian authorities to stop the operation and engage in dialogue with the Southeast.

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