50 separatists, 30 troopers killed in Ukraine clashes

Kiev : Thirty Ukrainian troopers were killed Friday and at least 50 pro-Russian separatists died in the past 24 hours in heavy shelling in the east of the country, Ukranian officials said.

The troopers were killed at dawn in a rebel rocket attack with Russian Grad missiles in the eastern region of Lugansk, said Zorian Shiriak, an advisor at the Ukrainian interior ministry.

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The pro-Russian separatists died amid heavy shelling from the government forces, Vladislav Seleznyo, spokesman of the Ukrainian command, said on his official Facebook account.

The clashes in eastern Ukraine for the past three months have left 173 troops and 478 civilians dead, including 30 women and seven children.

Kiev last April launched an anti-terrorist operation to recover the eastern regions of Lugansk and Donetsk, under control of the separatists, and made gains last week after taking the towns of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.

The Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council has announced plans to besiege the cities of Donetsk and Lugansk to “force separatists and criminals to disarm”.

Stanislav Rechinski, a spokesman for Ukraine’s interior ministry, has predicted that the two cities, which together have 1.4 million inhabitants, could be in the hands of government forces within a month.