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Friday, August 01, 2014, 7:33 a.m.
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Fierce fighting near rebel-held city in Ukraine

By The Associated Press

This article was published July 14, 2014 at 7:33 a.m.

KIEV, Ukraine — Fighting intensified Monday around the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk as government forces stepped up efforts to disrupt rebel lines and reclaim more territory from the faltering insurgency. One resident said panic was gripping the city.

In the past two weeks, the government has halved the territory held by pro-Russia separatists, who have been forced back into strongholds around the cities of Luhansk and Donetsk. Those two mostly Russian-speaking regions have declared independence from the government in Kiev.

Despite reports of military successes, however, Ukraine's president announced he has more evidence that Russia has directly supported a separatist insurgency against his government that is dragging into its fourth month.

The Defense Ministry said Monday that government troops had retaken several villages around the rebel-controlled city of Luhansk and had reopened a corridor to its civilian airport.

"Due to successful offensives by forces in the Donetsk region, some militants are trying to leave the city," the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

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