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Ukraine says has "freed" an eastern town of separatists

Source: Reuters - Wed, 23 Apr 2014 16:37 GMT
Author: Reuters
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(Adds comment from separatist leader, changes dateline)

SLAVIANSK, Ukraine, April 23 (Reuters) - Ukrainian government said on Wednesday its forces had flushed armed separatists out of a town in eastern Ukraine as part of an "anti-terrorism" operation.

The Interior Ministry said the operation took place on the outskirts of Sviatogorsk and no casualties were suffered.

There have been no previous reports of armed men in the town, which lies just outside the stronghold of pro-Russian militants in Slaviansk.

"During the anti-terrorism operation by special forces, the city was freed," the ministry said in a statement. "Currently Sviatogorsk and its surroundings are being patrolled by police."

Ukraine's government has formally ended an Easter truce and is remounting the campaign to eliminate armed pro-Russian separatist groups in the east.

In Slaviansk, a town that is entirely under the control of pro-Russian militants, the self-appointed separatist mayor said he was braced for an attack by Ukrainian forces as early as overnight.

"They are persistently and quietly surrounding our town," Vyacheslav Ponomaryov told reporters.

He said separatists had observed military helicopters bringing what he said was troop reinforcements to a nearby airfield and that an armoured column was moving toward the town from the direction of Izyum, a city north of Slaviansk. (Reporting by Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic in Slaviansk and Alissa de Carbonnel in Donestk, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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