Ukraine say it's now fighting rebels, Russians - Tucson News Now

Ukraine say it's now fighting rebels, Russians

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A frightened family flees from the fighting in eastern Ukraine. (Source: Radio Free Europe/CNN) A frightened family flees from the fighting in eastern Ukraine. (Source: Radio Free Europe/CNN)
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MARIUPOL, UKRAINE (Radio Free Europe/CNN) - Ukrainian forces claim to have recaptured the key city of Luhansk, but fierce fighting continues in the area.

And pro-Russian forces reportedly have opened a new front along the southern coast.

A sorry looking convoy, one of Ukraine's volunteer battalions, is beating a hasty retreat it seems from the country's embattled southeast.

Anti-Putin language is scrawled on the back of a car but is not much good as it rattles its way out of the conflict zone.

Past Mariupol are members of the volunteer Dnipro battalion huddled beneath a tree.

On Wednesday they say they were routed from the town of Novoazovsk close to the Russian border by Russian forces, backed up by cross-border artillery shelling.

The majority are regular Russian troops, the commander tells me, but the tank drivers are local separatists who crossed the borders and moved to Russian territory, got special training over there and came back.

CNN can't verify his claims, but he's convinced the separatists' plan is to move north from the Sea of Azov to create a corridor right up to Donetsk.

"I don't think, I know!" one soldier said of the idea.

Earlier to the north the sound of artillery fire in the distance could be heard along a main highway between Mariupol and Donetsk.

The local town is absolutely deserted. The locals say shelling has been going on for days and most of them spend most of their time underground because it's too dangerous they say to be out.

In Donetsk itself, shelling killed 15 civilians on Thursday.

A casualty count that grows each day. Those who can flee do so across the frontlines.

They hope signs marking their precious load - children - will save them from the cruelty of random mortar rounds.

"It was scary," one little boy said. "We were scared they would hit us, their shells would hit us and there were airplanes overhead."

The troops that stay are now facing an altogether tougher foe as Russia apparently bares its teeth on Ukrainian soil.

Copyright 2014 Radio Free Europe, CNN. All rights reserved.

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