Battles rage in Ukraine ahead of Minsk talks


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Fighting has surged in eastern Ukraine as government forces and pro-Russian rebels try to make gains ahead of possible peace talks on Wednesday.

Separatist forces have carried out rocket attacks on a key military headquarters and a residential area in Kramatorsk, officials say, according to the BBC.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s volunteer Azov battalion has launched an offensive against separatists around Mariupol.

More than 5,400 people have died since the conflict began last April.

The leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany hope to meet in the Belarusian capital Minsk on Wednesday to hammer out a peace deal after months of fighting.

Russia denies Western and Ukrainian accusations of sending troops and supplying the rebels and has warned the West that sending arms to Ukraine would worsen the crisis.

US President Barack Obama said on Monday that he had not ruled out supplying “lethal defensive weapons” to Ukraine if diplomacy failed.

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