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The Ukrainian solders were an easy target as they launched a desperate run to safety. Pounded by a gauntlet of rocket shells, blown up in their vehicles, they died by the dozens. In fields around the eastern Ukrainian village of Novokaterynivka, more than thirty army vehicles lay charred and pulverized into twisted piles of metal Tuesday — the result of a devastating weekend ambush by separatist forces. The rout marked a major intensification in the separatists’ offensive in eastern Ukraine — one that the government in Kiev, NATO and the United States say has been sustained by Russia’s direct military support. Moscow’s aggressive stance toward Ukraine has come in both words and deeds of late, fueled by attacks like those in Novokaterynivka as well as a leaked report that EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said Vladimir Putin told him that Russia could take over Kiev “in two weeks” if it wished. The separatists, after having a month of setbacks in which government troops regained territory, have been inordinately successful in the last 10 days just as columns of Russian tanks and armored vehicles have been seen crossing the border.



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