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Kiev warns east residents to leave as offensive looms

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The Ukrainian government has called on people in the country’s east to leave the flashpoint area as government troops close in on pro-Russia forces in the region.

The Ukraine military called on pro-Russia forces in the eastern cities of Donetsk and Lugansk to open corridors to allow civilians to leave the area.

The military also said its troops had already taken control of a checkpoint on the western edge of the city of Donetsk.

This came as the Ukrainian forces said they were closing in around Donetsk after making more gains against pro-Russian forces over the last month. Government forces are seeking to cut off pro-Russian forces in the city from their comrades in Lugansk and the Russian border.

Pro-Russia forces, however, have pledged to continue fighting against Kiev in the cities they hold.

Meanwhile, local officials in Lugansk said almost half of the city’s 420,000 populations had escaped amid warnings of humanitarian crisis. The city has been reportedly without power, running water and internet for three days.

The UN refugee agency said some 117,000 people had fled the country’s east to other regions, and 168,000 others had applied for asylum to Russian authorities.

Ukraine’s mainly Russian-speaking regions have witnessed deadly clashes between pro-Russia protesters and the Ukrainian army since the government in Kiev launched military operations in mid-April in a bid to crush the pro-Russia protests. The United Nations (UN) says at least 1,129 people have been killed in the military campaign.

The fighting has intensified in east Ukraine since July 17, when a Malaysian airliner, carrying 298 people, was downed in the Donetsk region. Western powers accuse pro-Russia forces of downing the civilian airliner. The pro-Russians deny any involvement and blame the Ukrainian army for the incident.


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