KIEV – Thirty Ukrainian troops were killed on Friday and at least 50 pro-Russian separatists died in the past 24 hours in heavy shelling in the east of the country, Ukrainian officials said.
The troops were killed at dawn in a rebel rocket attack with Russian “Grad” missiles in the eastern region of Lugansk, said Zorian Shiriak, an advisor at the Ukrainian Interior Ministry.
The pro-Russian separatists died amid heavy shelling from the government forces, spokesman of the Ukrainian command Vladislav Seleznyo said on his official Facebook account.
The clashes in eastern Ukraine for the past three months have left 173 troops and 478 civilians dead, including 30 women and seven children.
Kiev last April launched an anti-terrorist operation to recover the eastern regions of Lugansk and Donetsk, under control of the separatists, and made gains last week after taking the towns of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.
The Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council has announced plans to besiege the cities of Donetsk and Lugansk to “force separatists and criminals to disarm.”
A spokesman for Ukraine’s Interior Ministry, Stanislav Rechinski, has predicted that the two cities, which together have 1,4 million inhabitants, could be in the hands of Government forces within a month.