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Donetsk Separatist: Prepare for ‘Several Hundred Thousand Refugees’

MOSCOW – A voluntary evacuation of residents will begin from the embattled east Ukraine city of Dontesk, a pro-Russia separatist leader warned Thursday amid fresh fighting. A substantial number of people are already preparing to leave and railway and bus stations are busy, local media reported. "Russia needs to prepare for several hundred thousand refugees. Nearly all of them want to go to Russian Federation," the prime minister of the self-proclaimed separatist Donetsk republic, Alexander Borodai told Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.

Ukrainian government forces have recently gained the upper hand in the three-month conflict against separatists in the Russian-speaking eastern regions, and the military says it has a plan to deliver a "nasty surprise" to the heavily-armed separatists who have dug in at Donetsk after being pushed out of Slaviansk last weekend. There was heavy fighting Thursday between Ukrainian forces and the rebel fighters near Donetsk airport, according to the city’s mayor and the separatist commander, Igor Strekov.

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- Albina Kovalyova