Ukraine Presses Assault on Rebel-stronghold After Malaysian Airliner Shot Down

Pro-Russian separatists pushed back into Donetsk, and locals report fighting across Luhansk.

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An armored personnel carrier flying Ukraine's flag (L) and a Ukrainian tank, from a convoy of the Ukrainian forces, in the region of Lugansk, on July 25, 2014.
An armored personnel carrier flying Ukraine's flag (L) and a Ukrainian tank, from a convoy of the Ukrainian forces, in the region of Lugansk, on July 25, 2014.Credit: AFP

A Ukrainian security spokesman says government forces advanced to the outskirts of a key town in an effort to go after pro-Russian separatists in one of their main strongholds.

National security spokesman Andriy Lysenko said Ukrainian forces were outside Horlikva north of the main regional center of Donetsk.

Lysenko said at a briefing Saturday that after taking Horlivka, "the direct route is open for the forces of the anti-terrorist operation to the capital of the Donbass region — the city of Donetsk."

Ukraine's army has forced the rebels back towards their two main strongholds of Donetsk and the city of Luhansk, where the separatists have boosted their defenses, and fighting has raged since a Malaysian airliner was downed last week.

"Last night was terrible. I was woken up at 3 a.m. by the explosions. The walls shook, the windows shook," said Marina, who lives in a southern part of the city.

"There was shooting all over the city. And it still goes on. Maybe it's a little quieter now, but it's all around."

Local officials said some buildings had been damaged, one by fire, and one woman was wounded.

Wearing military camouflage, Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko inspected a National Guard base on Saturday and a spokesman for the country's Security Council repeated that Russia was amassing troops nearby Ukraine's border.

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