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KIEV, July 16 /ITAR-TASS/. Self-defense fighters of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics have launched an offensive on the Ukrainian National Guard forces in eastern Donetsk Region, the National Guard’s website said on Wednesday.
The offensive was launched “at 5am (local time) today from the settlement of Stepanovka (the Donetsk Region),” the Ukrainian National Guard press office reported.
“Tank and mortar strikes were delivered against the Ukrainian National Guard’s checkpoint located near Marinovka (the Donetsk Region). The shelling continued for an hour. The National Guard repelled the attack,” the report said.
A battle is currently underway in the area of the settlement of Tarany. Self-defense fighters are attacking from the settlements of Saur-Mogila and Stepanovka, using mortar and tank fire against the Ukrainian military’s positions, the report said.
Four Ukrainian National Guard soldiers have been wounded, the report said.
The southeast Ukraine militia has tanks, combat aircraft multiple launch rocket systems and artillery guns in its arsenal. The self-defense fighters say they have seized all these armaments in battles against the Ukrainian military.
The Donetsk defenders earlier said they had recommissioned a World War II tank that had long stood as a monument at a war memorial.
The parliament of the newly created Union of the Donetsk and Luhansk Republics on Tuesday declared as illegal all armed Ukrainian formations staying on their territories and said that “corresponding measures would be taken” against them.
Donetsk People’s Republic Defense Minister Igor Strelkov earlier said that the self-defense militia was switching to a contractual basis and would now “receive about $500-800 in money allowance.” Union Parliament Chairman Oleg Tsaryov said the self-defense forces had enough strength to contain the Ukrainian military.
Overall, Russia has set up 367 temporary refugee camps, he said.
Pro-Kiev troops and local militias in the southeastern Ukrainian Donetsk and Luhansk regions are involved in fierce clashes as the Ukrainian armed forces are conducting a military operation to regain control over the breakaway regions, which on May 11 proclaimed their independence at local referendums.
During the military operation, conducted since mid-April, Kiev has used armored vehicles, heavy artillery and attack aviation. According to Ukraine’s Health Ministry, 478 civilians have been killed and 1,392 wounded in it. Many buildings have been destroyed and tens of thousands of people have had to flee Ukraine’s embattled south-east.
The Ukrainian army has lost 258 soldiers and another 922 have been wounded in Kiev’s punitive operation in Ukraine’s embattled Southeast, Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council spokesperson Andrei Lysenko said on Tuesday.