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                                        Volume. 11959

Ukraine intensifies crackdown on separatists
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c_330_235_16777215_0___images_stories_edim_01_Ukraine99(23).jpgUkrainian security forces launched an operation on Sunday to clear pro-Russian separatists from a police headquarters in the eastern city of Slavyansk, with Kiev reporting dead on both sides.
 
One Ukrainian state security officer was killed and five wounded on the government side in what interior minister Arsen Avakov called Sunday's "anti-terrorist" operation, Reuters reported. 
 
"There were dead and wounded on both sides," Avakov said on his Facebook page, adding that there had been an "unidentifiable number" of casualties among the separatists, who were being supported by about 1,000 people.
 
Gunfire has broken out in the city of Slavyansk in eastern Ukraine, where anti-government protesters seized several buildings. The city became under siege after Kiev announced an “anti-terrorist operation” against the protesters.
 
The shooting apparently erupted Sunday morning at a checkpoint, which was established by protesters Saturday evening on the outskirts of the city, RT reported. 
 
Amid the skirmishes, Ukrainian helicopters were flying overhead.
 
Local residents also said several transport helicopters landed at an old airfield some 5 kilometers from the town center. Troops wearing black uniforms disembarked and went toward Slavyansk.
 
Ukraine faces a rash of rebellions in the east which it says are inspired and directed by the Kremlin. But action to dislodge the armed militants risks tipping the stand-off into a new, dangerous phase as Moscow has warned it will protect the region's Russian-speakers if they come under attack.
 
Relations between Russia and the West are at their worst since the end of the Cold War, the result of the crisis that began when the Moscow-backed Ukrainian president was pushed out and Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine.
 

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