Troops loyal to the Ukrainian government battled Russian tanks in Lugansk, a city in the eastern part of the country that is the apple of discord between Ukraine and Russia. Ukrainian military spokesman Leonid Matyukhin declared on his Facebook page on September 1, "The battle between Ukrainian paratroopers and a reinforced tank battalion of the Russian armed forces is continuing with the goal of controlling the Lugansk airfield.”
Ukrainian Defense Ministry Valeriy Geletey said that Russian troops are advancing towards other towns and cities in the disputed region, including Donetsk. "We are fighting Russia and it is Russia which is deciding what will happen in Donbass," he said on television on the evening of August 31. Donbass is the informal name of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. "We are holding talks not with terrorists but with representatives of the Kremlin," he added.
Forces loyal to Russia have seized large amounts of territory in eastern Ukraine over the last week. The Ukrainian government asserts, as does NATO, that Russia has been sending ever larger numbers of troops in addition to materiel. Moscow continues to deny the presence of its troops on Ukrainian soil, including a group of paratroopers that was captured about 15 miles from the Russian border. So far, fighting between Ukrainian government forces and the pro-Russian insurgents has claimed the lives of more than 2,600 since April of this year.
On August 31, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called discussing an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in advance of a meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group in Minsk. "I am very much counting upon the negotiations set for today, to above all focus on agreeing an immediate and unconditional ceasefire." Representatives of the Ukrainian and Russian governments, as well as the OSCE are to meet on September 1. It is not clear whether representatives of pro-Russian separatists will attend.
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