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Defenders launch counteroffensive in Lugansk region

Towards Lugansk moves the column of armored machinery of VS of Ukraine

LUGANSK, June 14 (ITAR-TASS) Local defenders (militia) in the self-proclaimed Lugansk People's Republic launched a counteroffensive to free the town of Schastye earlier seized by Ukrainian forces, the press service of the republic said on Saturday.

According to earlier reports, a column of armoured vehicles of the Ukrainian Armed Forces was moving toward Lugansk from Schastye. "Preparations are underway to defend the city," one of the republic's leaders said. There was no information about the strength of the Ukrainian force that was on the way to Lugansk.

A militia source said that defenders had to retreat to Lugansk during the assault against Schastye, when Kiev's forces used combat helicopters. The defenders regrouped. Militia sources also said Ukrainian troops lost eight people in fighting near Schastye.

One of militiamen also said that when they retreated under the assault of Ukrainian armoured vehicles, members of the Ukrainian National Guards shot dead six-seven wounded militiamen.

Meanwhile, the press service of the Donetsk People's Republic told Itar-Tass that defenders shot down a Su-24 bomber of the Ukrainian Armed Forces near Gorlovka, the Donetsk region.

Two Su-24s attacked the police department building in Gorlovka with cluster bombs. One of the planes was shot down from a portable antiaircraft gun, a source said. The plane fell outside the city. The pilot bailed out. Groups of defenders went to search for the pilot.

The shelling of the police building, the headquarters of the local militia (self defence force), killed one and injured five people. One of them is in heavy condiiton.

Ukrainian authorities earlier confirmed that a military transport plane was shot down at Lugansk airport overnight.

When landing at Lugansk airport, an Il-76 military transport plane of the Ukrainian Armed Forces was downed by a shot from an antiaircraft missile system. On board the plane were nine crewmembers and 40 servicemen. All died, the press service of the Ukrainian prosecutor's office said.