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DONETSK, Ukraine - Ukrainian army tanks were reported to be launching an assault to break pro-Russian rebels' hold on the eastern city of Donetsk on Monday. It was the first major outbreak of hostilities in the area since Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down last week. A separatist leader said Ukrainian government forces fighting was under way near the city's railway station.
Sergei Kavtaradze, of the rebels' self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, said at least four tanks and armored vehicles were trying to break through into the city. A Ukrainian military spokesman said the operation was in progress but would not comment on reports of troops entering Donetsk. "The active phase of the anti-terrorist operation is continuing," Vladyslav Seleznyov said. The shooting down of the airliner on Thursday has sharply deepened the Ukrainian crisis, in which separatists in the mostly Russian-speaking east have been fighting government forces since protesters in Kiev forced out a pro-Moscow president and Russia annexed Crimea in March.