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Ukrainian army units which had been trapped by separatists on the border with Russia broke out of the blockade on Friday and rejoined government forces, but the Ukrainian military said, 15 soldiers and border guards were killed in the operation. Military sources quoted by Ukrainian media said Ukrainian units had been effectively encircled by the rebels on a section of the border with Russia south of the town of Luhansk and east of the main regional city of Donetsk. The Kiev government and its Western allies accuse Russia of seeking to destabilize Ukraine and arming the rebels, who have declared independent “people’s republics” in the two main industrial regions.

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