Ukrainian government forces battled pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine not far from the Russian border Monday, as Russia called for the creation of "humanitarian corridors" to allow residents of the region to escape the violence.
A spokesman for Ukraine's so-called anti-terror operations, Vladislav Seleznyov, said about 200 men using small arms and machine guns attacked a border patrol post overnight near Luhansk, 30 kilometers from the Russian border. Snipers also fired on the border post, he said.
Seleznyov said the military called for an air strike, but the aircraft were unable to fire on rebels, who had taken positions near civilians in a nearby residential building.
As soon as the air assault began, he said, rebel fighters hid in the residential building near their base. As soon as the strike was called off, the rebels left the building and began shooting again.
The battles lasted into the day on Monday, leaving as many as seven people dead
Russian news agencies reported that five people were killed Monday when a warplane fired on the regional administration building inside the city of Luhansk, which currently houses officials of the separatists' self-styled Luhansk People's Republic. However, the Ukrainian New Agency quoted Seleznyov as denying that there had been an air strike on the building.
US vice president heads to Kyiv
Vice President Joe Biden will lead a presidential delegation to Kyiv on June 7 to attend the inauguration of Ukrainian President-elect Petro Poroshenko.
Biden also will hold meetings with Ukraine’s leaders to discuss Poroshenko’s agenda, the situation in the east, and how the United States can assist Ukraine with fighting corruption, strengthening its democratic institutions, and get its economy back on a path toward sustainable growth.
Russia requests 'humanitarian corridors'
Against the backdrop of ongoing violence, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday that Russia will submit a draft United Nations Security Council resolution Monday calling for the creation of "humanitarian corridors" in eastern Ukraine, to allow residents to escape the fighting.
Lavrov told reporters the resolution also calls for an end to the ongoing violence in that region, and said the situation there is worsening.
"Our Western colleagues have been telling us for quite a long time that as soon as the presidential election is held in Ukraine the situation will calm down. But everything is happening in exactly the opposite way," Lavrov said.
President-elect Petro Poroshenko won election on May 25.
Also Monday, Russia's state-run gas company, Gazprom, delayed a possible shutoff of gas supplies to Ukraine that would impact other parts of Europe as well.
Ukraine paid $786 million to cover some of its gas debt, earning a one-week delay in Russia's plan to not ship any more gas unless it is paid for in advance.
The two sides were due to continue negotiations on the issue Monday in Brussels.
Meanwhile, the office of British Minister David Cameron announced that he will hold a face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday in Normandy, France, where both will attend events marking the 70th anniversary of World War II's D-Day landings.
Some information for this report provided by Reuters.