The Ukrainian Security Forces have resumed the active phase of the anti-terrorist operation in and around the rebel-held city of Sloviansk in eastern Ukraine.
Several Ukrainian fighter jets and helicopter gunships have reportedly bombarded rebel positions on the city outskirts, killing more than 300 insurgents and injuring dozens of others.
Ukraine Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said a very intense exchange of fire is underway between pro-Russia militants and Ukrainian Armed Forces, who had also destroyed the militants’ roadblocks and engineer installations near Semenivka.
"Our armoured personnel carriers have been hit by the terrorists’ grenade launcher several times near Semenivka, but they have withstood the attack," Avakov said, adding that civilians in the concerned areas should stay indoors.
Ukraine anti-terrorism operation spokesperson Vladislav Seleznev was quoted by the Kyiv Post as saying that the clashes have claimed the lives of two Ukrainian servicemen and wounded 42 others, with some in a critical condition.
"The active phase of the counter-terrorism operation is continuing near Krasny Lyman and in Semenivka," Seleznev said.
The move comes a day after hundreds of heavily armed insurgents attacked a border guard headquarters in Luhansk Oblast, wounding ten servicemen, at least four critically.
The separatists claimed to have gunned down a Ukrainian Su-25 fighter aircraft and a helicopter gunship near the Luhansk regional administration building.
Sloviansk’s self-proclaimed ‘people’s mayor’ Vyacheslav Ponomarev was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying that ‘several tanks and one armoured personnel carrier of the Ukrainian Army were destroyed’.
However, Seleznev added: "Information that Ukrainian planes and helicopters have been shot down are not true. Yesterday one of the helicopters received holes from small-arms fire."
Meanwhile, Ukraine has formally announced that a total of 181 people, including 59 servicemen, have been killed and 239 injured in clashes with insurgents in Donetsk and Lugansk Oblast since April.