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Kyiv Says 200 Rebels Killed, Russian Tanks, Troops Cross Over Border


A helmet and ammunition belonging to a pro-Russian fighter are seen in the Slovyanoserbsk district of eastern Ukraine's Luhansk region.
A helmet and ammunition belonging to a pro-Russian fighter are seen in the Slovyanoserbsk district of eastern Ukraine's Luhansk region.

Ukrainian authorities say artillery fired by government forces has killed up to 200 pro-Russian separatists in the country's east amid reports of Russian tanks and soldiers crossing the border.

The number of insurgent casualties is much higher than most previous tolls reported for a single day of fighting in the conflict, which has killed more than 4,000 combatants and civilians since April, and could not be independently confirmed.

The press center of Kyiv's "Antiterrorist Operation" (ATO) said on its Facebook page on November 7 that "militants who were firing at Ukrainian military positions on the grounds of Donetsk airport on November 6 were eliminated by artillery units of the ATO forces."

It said "verified information" indicates the artillery fire "killed up to 200 militants" and destroyed or damaged four tanks and several other pieces of military equipment.

The Donetsk airport, which is mostly held by government forces, has been a focus of persistent fighting despite a September 5 cease-fire.

The fighting at the airport comes amid a report by a Ukrainian military spokesman that 32 tanks, other heavy weapons, and soldiers entered the eastern Ukrainian region of Luhansk from Russia on November 6.

Andriy Lysenko said that along with the tanks, 16 howitzer artillery systems and 30 trucks carrying ammunition and troops had also entered Ukraine.

He said another column of trucks and three mobile radar stations had crossed from Russia into Ukraine at a nearby border point.

Lysenko added that five Ukrainian soldiers had been killed and at least 16 other troops wounded in fighting in the past 24 hours.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on November 7 that he told Germany's Angela Merkel via phone that the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine was escalating due to "significant" violations of the September 5 cease-fire deal.

In Moscow, a senior Kremlin aide reiterated Russia's "respect" for elections held on November 2 by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine but said Moscow has deliberately stopped short of saying it "recognizes" the votes.

Yury Ushakov, President Vladimir Putin's foreign policy aide, told reporters on November 7 that Russia set out its position in a Foreign Ministry statement on November 3 that said it "respects the will" of residents who voted in the elections, which were condemned as illegitimate by Ukraine and the West.

Asked whether respecting the elections is the same as recognizing the elections, Ushakov said it was not.

"These are different words," he said. "The word 'respect' was chosen deliberately. We fundamentally respect the voters' expression of will."

Ushakov said Russia remains committed to a September 5 cease-fire in eastern Ukraine and wants further talks to be held to build on some peace moves.

Ushakov said there is no specific plan for a meeting between Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama during upcoming summits in Asia, but that they would have good opportunities to meet "on their feet."

With reporting by Interfax, AFP, TASS, and Reuters
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