By Simon Basketter
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Violent clashes in lead-up to Ukraine breakaway polls

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Issue 2402
Clashes in Ukraine

Clashes in Ukraine (Pic: Mstyslav Chernov on Wikimedia Commons)

Ukraine lurched closer to civil war this week. Ukrainian soldiers, pro-Russian fighters and civilians were killed and injured when Ukrainian government troops stepped up attacks against rebels in the eastern town of Slovyansk.

Russian separatists shot down helicopters halting the bulk of the assault.  Fighting on violent demonstrations in Odessa on Friday of last week saw over 40 people killed.  

Many of the dead were caught inside a trade union building which was set alight. 

The Russian and Ukrainian governments each blamed forces sympathetic to the other side. 

Both the West and Russia are using militias and euphemistically described civil police to attempt to gain control. 

But overall, the Western-backed Ukrainian government is losing its grip over much of its territory. 

On Sunday separatists plan referendums across the east and south. 

The result is expected to be a vote to break away from the West to become an independent state— or even to follow the example of Crimea, which joined Russia in March. 

By the time of presidential elections, set for 25 May, Ukraine may no longer exist as a single country.



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