DONETSK Ukraine (Reuters) – Ukrainian army tanks were reported to be launching an assault to break pro-Russian rebels’ hold on the eastern city of Donetsk on Monday in the first major outbreak of hostilities in the area since Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down last week.
A separatist leader said Ukrainian government forces were trying to break into Donetsk and fighting was under way near the railway station.
Sergei Kavtaradze, of the rebels’ self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, said at least four tanks and armoured vehicles were trying to break through into the city.
A Ukrainian military spokesman said the operation was in progress but would not comment on reports of troops entering Donetsk. “The active phase of the anti-terrorist operation is continuing. We are not about to announce any troop movements,” Vladyslav Seleznyov said.
Reuters journalists also saw two rebel tanks heading towards Donetsk railway station.
As international horror deepened over the fate of the remains of the 298 victims of the air disaster, the first international investigators reached rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine on Monday.
Three members of a Dutch disaster victims identification team arrived in Donetsk and were expected to visit a railway station near the crash site where nearly 200 bodies have been stored in refrigerated wagons.
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