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Ukraine's New Defense Minister Vows Crimea Victory

Newly appointed Defense Minister Colonel General Valeriy Heletey said, "Believe me, there will be a victory parade -- there will be for sure -- in Ukraine's Sevastopol."

New Ukrainian Defense Minister Valeriy Heletey has vowed to hold "a victory parade" in Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in March.

Addressing parliament on July 3, Colonel General Heletey said, "Believe me, there will be a victory parade -- there will be for sure -- in Ukraine's Sevastopol."

Heletey, a former policeman who headed the state's VIP bodyguard service, was approved by lawmakers after being recommended by President Petro Poroshenko.

Lieutenant General Viktor Muzhenko, a career soldier trained in the Soviet Union, was confirmed as the new head of the joint chiefs of staff.

Yuriy Kosyuk, an agriculture magnate and one of Ukraine's richest men, will oversee defense issues in the presidential administration.

In announcing the appointments, Poroshenko promised to "purge the army of thieves and grafters."

He has pledged to stamp out corruption within the country's armed forces which are battling to assert control over pro-Russian separatists in the country's industrial east.

Meanwhile in eastern Ukraine, government forces pressed their offensive against pro-Russian separatists after the expiration of a 10-day cease-fire late on June 30.

Ukraine's border service said nine guards were wounded on July 3 when rebels shelled the Dolzhanskyy border post with Russia, amid continued fighting following the expiration of a 10-day cease-fire late on June 30.

The border post is a strategic crossing that Kyiv won back days earlier in a step hailed as the "first victory" since the renewal of its military offensive.

Elsewhere, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said in a statement that its forces had destroyed five trucks carrying "terrorists."

The statement said rebels had launched 16 attacks on government checkpoints during the past 24 hours.

No casualty figures were available.

Truce Talks

In Berlin, the foreign ministers of Ukraine, Russia, Germany, and France agreed on July 2 to work on another truce, with talks starting on July 5 at the latest.

Any future cease-fire would be monitored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

The four ministers agreed that the violence should cease on all sides, hostages be released, and Ukraine border points with Russia be brought back under government control.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier described the Berlin meeting as “constructive,” adding that all participants “realize what responsibility we bear.”

In a conference call on July 3, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to help organize a meeting before July 5 in order to define the conditions for a cease-fire.

"To this end, they asked President Putin to intervene with the separatists in order to bring them into negotiations and to find an accord with the Ukrainian authorities," a statement from the French presidency said.

In a statement, the Kremlin said Putin had expressed his "deep concern" over the growing number of civilian casualties and refugees from eastern Ukraine who are now in Russia.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry says nearly 200 soldiers have been killed and more than 600 wounded since April, while separatists say at least 800 rebels have been killed.

According to the United Nations, at least 110,000 people have left Ukraine for Russia, and about 54,400 others have been displaced within Ukraine.

With reporting by ITAR-TASS, the BBC, dpa, AFP, AP, and Reuters
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