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More than 150,000 people have been forced from their homes by fighting between Ukraine's Western-backed government and pro-Russia rebels, the United Nations said Friday. Some 110,000 people have fled the Russian-annexed southern peninsula of Crimea and the east of the country, where rebels are agitating for a similar union with Moscow. The U.N.'s refugee agency said 54,000 people have been displaced but remain within Ukraine and another 110,000 arrived in Russia since the start of the year - including almost 20,000 in the past two weeks alone.
“Displaced people cite worsening law and order, fear of abductions, human rights violations and the disruption of state services,” UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming told a press conference in Geneva. She said most people were being provided with temporary shelter and support from local authorities, donations of private citizens, and the U.N. itself. More than 400 people have died in fighting since mid-April as Ukraine troops attempt to dislodge the pro-Russia militants with airstrikes and artillery raids. Meanwhile, eight military observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe were released on Thursday after being held hostage by the rebels.