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Kyiv Says Battle Moves Into Rebel Stronghold Of Luhansk

Pro-Russian separatists pose at a damaged checkpoint in Dolzhansky in the Luhansk Region on August 18.
Pro-Russian separatists pose at a damaged checkpoint in Dolzhansky in the Luhansk Region on August 18.

A spokesman for Kyiv's military says government forces on August 19 were fighting pro-Russian separatists within Luhansk, one of two rebel-held cities in eastern Ukraine.

National Security and Defense Council spokesman Andriy Lysenko said one district of Luhansk "has been liberated" and that "fighting is going on in the center of the city."

Lysenko said separatists were destroying the infrastructure in populated areas of eastern Ukraine and were placing land mines on roads, bridges, health clinics, and hospitals.

Russia's Interfax news agency quoted a member of the separatist militia in Luhansk as saying on August 19 that Ukrainian forces had fired several artillery barrages into the center of Luhansk but that there was no combat in the city center.

The Luhansk City Council said on its website on August 19 that civilians had been killed and injured by overnight artillery attacks. It did not cite any figures for the casualties.

Meanwhile, officials in Kyiv said government forces also tightened their encirclement of Donetsk on August 19 by capturing another town near that rebel-held stronghold.

Kyiv says fighting outside of Luhansk on August 19 halted efforts by government troops to recover the bodies of dozens of civilians it says were killed by separatist fighters on August 18 while trying to flee Luhansk.

The government says the bodies of 15 civilians have been recovered so far.

Kyiv accuses pro-Russian rebels of firing Russian-supplied rockets and artillery at a convoy that was transporting the adults and children from Luhansk.

Pro-Russian separatists deny carrying out the attack, calling it "blatant propaganda."

In Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) agreed on August 19 to take "active measures" within hours "to resolve the status" of a large convoy of Russian trucks that Moscow says is carrying humanitarian aid destined for eastern Ukraine.

The ICRC said that it was still waiting for all sides to provide security guarantees before it would agree to allow its representatives to accompany the Russian convoy and ensure it isn't providing weapons to the rebels.

Ukrainian authorities at the border were refusing to inspect the cargo and allow it to cross into Ukrainian territory until separatists have provided those security guarantees to the Red Cross.

The latest fighting in eastern Ukraine comes after talks in Berlin on August 17 between the foreign ministers of Ukraine, Russia, Germany, and France failed to reach an agreement on defusing Ukraine's crisis.

German and Ukrainian officials said on August 19 that German Chancellor Angela Merkel plans to visit the Ukrainian capital on August 23 with the aim of boosting Berlin's support for Kyiv.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, dpa, AFP, Rossia 24, ITAR-TASS, and Interfax
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