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4 May, 2014 08:22

Ukraine military engages self-defense in Slavyansk

Anti-government protesters are reportedly conducting a battle with Ukrainian military forces on the outskirts of the eastern town of Slavyansk in the Donetsk region. Self-defense fighters say they will push the troops out of the town.

There was a gunfight near the railway station about half-an-hour ago. From there it moved to Malinovka district,” a representative of the local self-defense headquarters told Interfax. According to the source, protesters managed to drive the troops to the outskirts of the town, and “plan to dislodge them from there.”

One activist, called Natalia, confirmed to RT that currently there is shooting near the villages of Malinovka and Andreevka.

She said that self-defense is currently “pursuing” National Guard troops, Rights Sector militants and “mercenaries.”

So, we are now conducting an offensive rather than a defensive operation,” Natalia said. The “operation” is aimed at the “destruction” of the troops’ camps in the area.

Earlier, Ukrainian troops who are continuing their special operation in Slavyansk, took control of a local TV broadcasting center, the country’s Interior Ministry said, as cited by Itar-Tass.

Meanwhile the Donetsk region self-defense forces say they have managed to regain some of the areas, previously seized by Ukrainian troops. That’s according to Miroslav Rudenko, one of the Donbass self-defense leaders, who was interviewed by Interfax.

While the military operation is currently on in a number of cities and towns in the Donetsk region, the city of Donetsk itself is peaceful and getting ready for a referendum on the region’s status, one of the leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Denis Pushilin told Itar-Tass over the phone.

Donetsk is calm,” he said. “We’ve heard no more threats from the authorities in Kiev. We’ve been preparing for the May-11 referendum. We are setting up election committees, printing ballots etc.”

The ballots will only have one question to be answered ‘yes’ or ‘no’: “Do you support the act on independence of the Donetsk republic?

The storming of Slavyansk is part of a wider military operation in eastern Ukraine, which intensified in the first days of May.

A special operation against pro-federalization activists in Slavyansk in the Donetsk region started early on the morning of May 2, when the city was blockaded by Ukrainian military. Dozens of APCs and 20 helicopters were engaged in the operation.

Fighting erupted between troops and local self-defense squads, which reportedly resulted in three casualties. Two helicopter pilots died, according to Ukrainian military officials, while self-defense forces in Slavyansk said that one of their members was killed.

Later, the People’s Mayor of Slavyansk said over 10 people died and around 40 were injured after members of the ultra-nationalist Right Sector group opened fire on civilians near the city.

On Saturday, Kramatorsk became the hotspot of the stand-off between troops and anti-government activists. The Ukrainian military occupied most of the city of Kramatorsk, with only the center reportedly remaining under the control of the local self-defense, who claim that 10 people died in fighting with the government troops, with two being “killed by snipers.”

On Saturday night, the special operation by government military forces spread to city of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine, as well as Konstantinovka in the Donetsk region.