A car burns on the street after a shelling by pro-Russian rebels of a residential sector of Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, January 24, 2015. REUTERS/Nikolai Ryabchenko
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At least 27 people died Saturday when rockets hit a market in a vital port linking Ukrainian rebel lands with Russian-occupied Crimea after the pro-Moscow insurgents vowed to grab more land.A top pro-Russian rebel on Saturday announced the launch of a major offensive on Ukraine's government-held port of Mariupol, confirming responsibility for rocket fire.A rebel assault on the port in August saw Kiev repel the attack at a heavy cost that prompted Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to agree to a September 5 truce.Moscow denied ever dispatching its units and called Russian soldiers in the area volunteers or troops who were on leave and fighting to protect locals from alleged persecution by nationalists in the new Kiev government.Ukraine claimed on Monday that Moscow had poured nearly 1,000 more Russia soldiers into the southeast in order to spearhead a new guerrilla offensive designed to conquer huge new swathes of the former Soviet republic. Moscow concedes that militias have recently gained more ground than allowed under the September truce terms.
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