Armed pro-Russian separatists stand guard on the street in the settlement of Makiivka, on the outskirts of Donetsk, August 19, 2014. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
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A gun battle broke out in the centre of the rebel-held Ukrainian city of Donetsk and residents ran for cover from artillery fire on Tuesday, taking a government military offensive into the heart of the retreating pro-Moscow separatist rebellion.In a prelude to the talks between Putin and Ukraine's Petro Poroshenko, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is to visit the Ukrainian capital Kiev on Saturday, her office said, to show support for the Ukrainian government.Donetsk has for months been the headquarters of Ukraine's separatist rebellion, with rebel flags flying over administrative buildings and where residents strolled along the main avenue lined with flower bed and fountains.Russia annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea earlier this year. Since then, Kiev and its Western backers say Russia has been arming the anti-Kiev rebellion in Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine, an allegation that Moscow has denied.Russian officials welcomed any European moves to bring Kiev -- which they blame for what they call a humanitarian disaster in eastern Ukraine -- to the negotiating table in earnest.The fighting in eastern Ukraine has taken a heavy human toll.
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