Rebels kill many troops in Ukraine border post attack

Rebels kill many troops in Ukraine border post attack
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Rebels in eastern Ukraine have stepped up attacks on government forces to deadly effect.

The Ukrainian military says 23 of its soldiers and border guards have been killed after pro-Russian separatists firing Grad rockets attacked a border post in the Luhansk region.

If confirmed, it represents a major escalation in the conflict. Earlier, an official gave an even higher number of victims but this has been denied.

The military also said five miners had been killed and ten wounded in a rebel attack on a bus near Donetsk.

“A school and four apartment buildings were destroyed and a power plant was damaged after terrorists fired at the town of Chervonopartyzansk. One of the shells hit the bus carrying miners,” said Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council.

The rebels had seemed to be losing ground to government forces. But since being ousted from their stronghold of Slovyansk they have been regrouping around Donetsk.

The government has threatened a “nasty surprise” in driving them out.

The rebels remain defiant: “We are defending our motherland. And we don’t want Western people coming here and ruling over us. We just won’t simply allow it. There are a lot of miners here, a lot of builders, ordinary people,” said one.

Fighting continued to rage around the airport in Donetsk on Friday, but the rebels are not thought to have broken through. Government forces have been trying to encircle the separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk.