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Area surrounding key Ukrainian city shelled ahead of peace talks

Violence raged Thursday into Friday morning in the strategic Ukrainian city of Mariupol, situated between Russia and the illegally-annexed Crimean Peninsula, as senior representatives from Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE prepared to meet for peace talks.

By JC Finley
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Area surrounding key Ukrainian city shelled ahead of peace talks
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, pictured on August 24, has said he has "very cautious optimism" concerning the status of peace talks with Russia and the planned implementation of a cease-fire on September 5, 2014. (UPI/Ivan Vakolenko) | License Photo

KIEV, Ukraine, Sept. 5 (UPI) -- As the Trilateral Contact Group -- comprised of senior representatives from Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE -- prepared to meet Friday for peace talks, violence continued to rage in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol.

Situated on the Sea of Azov between Russia and the illegally-annexed Crimean Peninsula, Mariupol is considered a strategic city because, if seized, it could provide a corridor for Russia.

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On Thursday, the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine reported "the situation in Mariupol was worsening by the hour and that there was a danger that irregular armed groups could move into the city tonight."

The shelling began before 1:00 p.m. local time in the area of Shyrokyne and Bezimenne, followed by 50-60 explosions. Residents reported casualties and a loss of electricity after the power station in Shyrokyne was destroyed by the shelling.

Fighting continued into Friday morning, reported the Ukrainian volunteer Azov Battalion.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Thursday from the NATO summit in Wales that he has "slight hopes" for an immediate ceasefire agreement at Friday's meeting. Poroshenko added: "we cross the fingers..."

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