The Ukrainian army pushes closer to the rebel-held city of Donetsk a day after 23 of its servicemen were killed. Gavino Garay reports.
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The Ukrainian army pushes closer to rebel-held Donetsk.
Kiev is battling what it calls the "epicenter" of rebel forces along the Russian border following a deadly attack on Friday that left 23 servicemen killed.
But here in a town not far from Donetsk, soldiers say residents are thankful for their presence.
(SOUNDBITE) (Ukrainian) UKRAINIAN SOLDIER, ANDRIY, SAYING:
"Fifty percent of the city's residents left, they went wherever they could. But now they are slowly starting to return. We are here and they feel safer, all the people come and thank us for taking the city. We surround the town and defend it."
Meanwhile in Luhansk, the city's regional administration says at least three people were killed in shelling on Friday.
One woman had this message for Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
(SOUNDBITE) (Russian) LUHANSK RESIDENT, NO NAME GIVEN, SAYING:
"Get away from here. Leave us alone. I want to live and bring up my children in peace. Remember my face, bastard! I personally will come and kill you and your family."
The spokesman for Ukraine's "anti-terrorist operation" says rebels, not the government are to blame for shelling in residential areas.
He also accuses pro-Russian separatists of smuggling Ukrainian orphans across the border.
(SOUNDBITE) (Ukrainian) UKRAINIAN NATIONAL SECURITY AND DEFENCE COUNCIL SPOKESMAN, ANDRIY LYSENKO, SAYING:
"We obtained information that terrorists started kidnapping Ukrainian children. They try to illegally move orphans deprived of parents' care to the Russian Federation. Heads of orphanages are under pressure. Terrorists force them to complete official documents for moving children abroad. This case was reported to us by Donetsk regional administration."
Kiev blames this latest flare-up in violence on Russia --- and called for them to end its "provocations" in the east.