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Fighting rages in Ukraine, Russia denies rebel control

A pro-Russian rebel aims his rifle at a checkpoint near a Ukrainian airbase in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine May 2, 2014. Pro-Russian rebels shot down two Ukrainian helicopters on Friday, killing two crew, as troops tightened their siege of separatist-held Slaviansk in what Moscow called a "criminal" assault by Kiev that wrecked hopes of peace. REUTERS/Marko Djurica (UKRAINE - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman said on Saturday that Russia had lost control over "self-defense" forces in eastern Ukraine as fighting raged around the rebel stronghold of Kramatorsk.

He also said both the Kiev authorities and their backers in the West were directly responsible for bloodshed in the Ukrainian city of Odessa, Russian new agencies reported.

"Kiev and its Western sponsors are practically provoking the bloodshed and bear direct responsibility for it," RIA Novosti quoted spokesman Dmitry Peskov as telling reporters.

Peskov also said Friday's violence, in which dozens died, made the idea of holding presidential elections in Ukraine later this month "absurd".

Meanwhile, the head of Ukraine's anti-terrorist centre said on Saturday there was heavy fighting in the eastern town of Kramatorsk, south of rebel stronghold Slaviansk.

Offering few details, Vasyl Krutov told a news conference: "There is gunfire and clashes around Kramatorsk ... What we are facing in the Donetsk region and in the eastern regions is not just some kind of short-lived uprising, it is in fact a war."

 

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