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Six civilians reportedly killed, two Ukrainian journalists captured as battle intensifies in the east (LIVE UPDATES)

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July 1, 2014, 5:16 p.m. | Ukraine — by Kyiv Post

Pro-Russian fighters take position behind trees during clashes against Ukrainian forces near the airport in Donetsk on May 26, 2014.
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Editor's note: Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko vowed on July 1 to launch a military offensive against Kremlin-backed "terrorists" in eastern Ukraine, ending a 10-day declared truce that Ukrainian authorities said was violated more than 100 times by the separatists who killed 27 Ukrainian troops. Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to make an appearance before Russian parliament today to discuss protection of Russia’s national interests and the strengthening of international laws, according to Ria Novosti.

Putin addresses Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow

3.55 p.m. - Russian President Vladimir Putin has delivered a speech to Russian ambassadors, envoys and diplomats at the Foreign Ministry headquarters in Moscow, discussing the crisis in Ukraine and Russia’s foreign policy goals.

“President Petro Poroshenko has taken a decision to resume military activities, and we – by which I mean neither I nor my European partners - were able to convince him that the path to lasting peace does not lie through war,” he said.

Vladimir Putin speaks at Russian Foreign Ministry on July 1

Putin demanded an investigation into the death on June 30 of Russian journalist Anatoly Klyan, adding that he hopes Kyiv’s promises of conducting such an investigation are kept.

“Of course what is happening in Ukraine is an internal matter for the Ukrainian state. We regret the fact that people are dying, including civilians. The number of refugees coming to Russia is growing, and we will offer unconditional help to all those who require it. But what is absolutely unacceptable is the killing of journalists,” Putin said.

“In my opinion there is a deliberate campaign aimed at liquidating representatives of the press, which concerns both Russian and foreign journalists. Who fears objective information? Clearly only those who are committing a crime.” 

A transcript of the speech is available here.- Matthew Luxmoore

Standoff in central Donetsk continues

2.30 p.m. - A major standoff is continuing outside Donetsk police headquarters. Traffic on surrounding roads has been stopped by gunmen wearing camouflage and wielding anti-tank weapons, apparently members of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, although they are not revealing their affiliation. The scene is confusing, with residents visibly shaken and scared. Many are running to their homes, according to Kyiv Post reporter Christopher Miller who is at the scene. -- Matthew Luxmoore

Pro-Russian rebels gather near the police station in Donetsk, where a standoff continued late into the day on July 1.

Gunfight breaks out in central Donetsk 

1:55 p.m. - A fierce gunfight has broken out in the regional capital of Donetsk as rebels attempt to take control of the local Ukrainian Interior Ministry headquarters, according to witnesses cited by Ukrainska Pravda and local news agency 62.ua. Ukrainska Pravda reports that the shooting began at 1p.m. on Postisheva street in the centre of the city.

The street has been closed off and ambulances have been arriving at the scene, witnesses report. Workers from the nearby “Green Plaza” office building have been evacuated and most shops inside the “Zolote Kiltse” mall have closed. 

A separatist fighter carries an anti-tank weapon on his back during an armed standoff in Donetsk's city center on July 1.

In the meantime, transport links have been cut between several towns across Donetsk oblast due to resumption of the ATO. Among them are Kramatorsk, Sloviansk, Krasniy Liman and Svyatogorsk, Ukrainska Pravda reports. -- Matthew Luxmoore

REN TV reporter injured near Russian-Ukrainian border

1 p.m. A REN TV reporter has been injured in Ukraine's Luhansk region near the border with Russia, a television station spokesman told Interfax on Tuesday.

"Our correspondent was injured in Luhansk region, one kilometer from the Russian-Ukrainian border. A REN TV news crew came under mortar fire near the Izvaryne border crossing point outside of Luhansk. Presumably a howitzer projectile exploded near the journalist. Correspondent Denis Lulaga suffered a concussion. He cannot hear anything. Blood is leaking from his ears," the TV station said on its Twitter account.

"Our cameraman suffered a concussion as well. The video camera was knocked out of his hands by the blast. The equipment went out of order," it said.

The TV channel said on its Twitter page earlier that its correspondent "was injured near the Izvaryne border crossing point on Russian territory."

"A projectile launched from the direction of Ukraine exploded near him," it said. -- Interfax

Poroshenko envoy: Next meeting of tripartite contact group on situation in Donbas may take place in Minsk

12:34 p.m. The president's envoy for settling the situation in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, Iryna Heraschenko, said that the third meeting of the OSCE-Ukraine-Russia contact group may be held in Minsk.

Ukraine - Former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma (R) speaks during consultations with the Trilateral contact group in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on June 23, 2014.

"You know that a decision has been made to resume the work of the so-called tripartite contact group. I do not rule out that the next meeting of the contact group will not be held in eastern Ukraine. Perhaps, it will be [held in] Minsk," she told reporters on July 1. -- Interfax

Reports of rebels surrendering to government forces

12:24 p.m. - A number of separatist fighters have given themselves up to Ukrainian forces and requested a transit corridor to facilitate their return to Russia, according to reports by Ukrainska Pravda and Ukrinform.

“We are conducting negotiations with members of the Donbas self-defence group, who want to leave the area. Their number is currently unknown. At the moment we are simply checking them and letting them go,” ATO spokesman Oleksiy Dmitrashkovskiy told Ukrainska Pravda, adding that three people were escorted out yesterday.

Zoryan Shkiryak, advisor to the Interior Minister, wrote on his Facebook page that rebels have begun giving up their weapons at various locations, "even in groups". The reports have not been independently confirmed. -- Matthew Luxmoore

Acting Kramatorsk mayor reportedly submits resignation

11:53 a.m. Kramatorsk’s acting mayor Andrey Borsuk has submitted his resignation to the city council at a meeting held this morning, according to local media reports. As reasons for the resignation, Borsuk cites the impossibility of managing a city undergoing economic collapse and blocked access to treasury funds. 

Mayoral duties will now be assumed by Andrey Pankov, the former deputy mayor for economic issues, according to Ukrainian news agency UNN. Borsuk’s decision comes hours after an attack on a local bus in the city resulted in four deaths and five injuries. -- Matthew Luxmoore

Ukrainian journalist reportedly captured by Luhansk People's Republic

11:35 a.m. Hromadske TV journalist Anastasia Stanko and cameraman Ilya Bezkorovayniy have reportedly been captured by separatists in the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk.

According to Hromadske TV, on the evening of June 30, Stanko and Bezkorovayniy were detained by the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic while reporting in the region. There has been no official confirmation from separatist leaders there about their detention.

Nastya Stanko.

There are conflicting reports, however, that say Stanko may have been released. Ukrainska Pravda journalist Mustafa Nayyem wrote on Twitter overnight that she had been set free and was safe in Kharkiv. That information could not be confirmed by the Kyiv Post.

According to unconfirmed reports, the two journalists are being held in the basement of a separatist-held building in the central Luhansk.

Hromadske TV said in a statement that its staff is very concerned about the journalists and encourages those who are hold Stanko and Bezkorovayniy to provide information about their status, including their health, and the conditions under which the journalists may be released.

Dunja Mijatovic, OSCE representative on freedom of the media, weighed in on Twitter, saying the journalists' detainment was "unacceptable" and that "journalists' safety must be ensured." -- Christopher J. Miller

Donetsk regional authorities report four killed as bus comes under fire in Kramatorsk

11:15 a.m. Early in the morning on July 1, a bus came under fire in the city Kramatorsk, killing four and wounding five others, reports Donetsk news agency Ostrov, citing the Donetsk Regional State Administration press service. The wounded were transported to area hospitals and are currently being treated by medical professionals, the administration's press service said. -- Christopher J. Miller


Photos published on social media purport to show the scene of the bus shooting.
In this photo, the body of a person reportedly killed aboard the bus rests in a pile of broken glass in the aisle of the bus.

TV Tower downed by rebels near Sloviansk; convoy of armored vehicles seen entering Luhansk

10:30 a.m. - A TV tower situated on Karachun Hill near the besieged city of Slovyansk was downed by rebels during heavy fighting overnight. The tower, built in 1979, stood 220 meters high.

A photograph taken on July 1 purports to show the toppled TV tower.

Early in the morning on July 1, a bus came under fire in the city Kramatorsk. Four people are reported killed and five wounded. 

In the meantime, both sides appear to be strengthening their military capabilities. A video purportedly showing a convoy of pro-Russian military vehicles entering Luhansk around 2 a.m. on June 30 appeared on social media.

CCTV footage from Luhansk shows military vehicles entering the city overnight.

Meanwhile, images and footage of Ukrainian army tanks being transported have also surfaced. 

The above video, believed to have been filmed yesterday in Izyum, the headquarters of the government's "anti-terrorist operation" some 40 kilometers north of Sloviansk, shows a column of heavy artillery being transported to the front lines of the battle against the separatists. -- Matthew Luxmoore

Editor’s Note: This article has been produced with travel support from www.mymedia.org.ua, funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark and implemented by a joint venture between NIRAS and BBC Media Action, as well as Ukraine Media Project, managed by Internews and funded by the United States Agency for International Development. The content is independent of these organizations and is solely the responsibility of the Kyiv Post. 

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