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Ukraine: Pro-Russian rebels launch large-scale attack

The towns of Maryinka and Krasnohorivka, near Donetsk, are scenes of the fighting.

By Ed Adamczyk
Ukrainian army members of the Azov military battalion. File Photo by Ivan Vakolenko/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/d082b8f7c34546e9b6b29309b8655db5/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Ukrainian army members of the Azov military battalion. File Photo by Ivan Vakolenko/UPI | License Photo

KIEV , Ukraine, June 3 (UPI) -- Ukraine said Wednesday a major attack on government positions by pro-Russian separatists has begun, with 15 people killed so far.

Both sides said combat involving tanks and heavy artillery are in progress in the towns of Maryinka and Krasnohorivka, near the rebel-held city of Donetsk. A "large-scale offensive against Ukrainian positions" was in progress, the Ukrainian military said in a statement.

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A senior rebel leader, Vladimir Kononov, said, "At the moment, around 15 people have been killed. These are the Donetsk People's Republic's losses."

Rebels have denied beginning a new offensive.

"Krasnohorivka and Maryinka are in flames. There is a close-contact fighting taking place along the entire line of contact. Militants are trying to break through," Ukrainian legislator Yevhen Deydey wrote on his blog.

The clashes violate the February cease-fire agreement signed by each side in Minsk, Belarus. Another round of talks on a peace plan ended without resolution Tuesday.

The conflict, now in its 14th month, began as separatists seized portions of the two eastern Ukrainian provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk, shortly after Russia seized the Ukrainian province of Crimea. Western powers claim clear evidence Russia is sending troops and equipment to the fighting, a charge Russia denies.

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The United Nations has said that more than 6,400 people have been killed in the conflict.

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