Ukraine crisis: 'Heavy fighting' around Sloviansk

Masked pro-Russia militia near Sloviansk Image copyright AP
Image caption Sloviansk is known to be a stronghold of pro-Russian militants

Heavy fighting is taking place in and around the rebel-held city of Sloviansk in eastern Ukraine, Ukrainian and Russian media report.

Ukrainian troops shelled the city in the morning, Russia's Itar-Tass said, with warplanes flying overhead.

One member of the security services was reported by local media to have been killed and 13 injured when separatists attacked posts near Sloviansk.

The interior ministry said separatist roadblocks had been destroyed.

For weeks, eastern Ukraine has been the scene of deadly clashes between government troops and pro-Russian insurgents who have taken over key buildings across the region.

'More aggressive'

On Tuesday, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov urged residents of Sloviansk and also nearby Kramatorsk and Krasnyi Lyman to stay indoors while the "the active phase" against pro-Russian militants was in progress.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The Ukrainian army is confronting separatists in the east in what it describes as an "anti-terror" operation
Image copyright AFP
Image caption The conflict in eastern Ukraine has intensified in recent days
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A border command centre near Luhansk remains surrounded by pro-Russian gunmen

He said on his Facebook page that separatist checkpoints near Semenivka had been destroyed.

Separatists in the area claimed to have destroyed a Ukrainian warplane, a helicopter and several tanks - but these claims could not be independently confirmed.

Itar-Tass said there had also been fierce clashes throughout Monday night in Kramatorsk, about 10km (6 miles) from Sloviansk.

It said explosions and artillery fire were heard at the local airfield and three separatists were killed elsewhere in the area.

On Monday, hundreds of separatists assaulted a border command centre near the city of Luhansk, which remains surrounded by the gunmen.

Five militants were reported to have been killed and eight wounded when the centre came under sustained attack. Seven border guards were said to have been wounded.

As many as 500 pro-Russian gunmen are believed to have been involved in the assault.

Also on Monday, there was an explosion in Luhansk's main regional building, which was seized by the separatists several weeks ago. Media reports suggested there were casualties.

Pro-Russian groups accused Ukraine's military of carrying out an air strike.

Kiev denied the claim, suggesting that separatists in the building could have mishandled a portable anti-aircraft missile system.

On Tuesday, the OSCE's monitoring mission to Ukraine said the building was hit by rockets.

It added that - based on the mission's limited observation - "these strikes were the result of non-guided rockets shot from an aircraft".

Correspondents say the separatists have become more and more aggressive in their assaults on government-held positions as they try to obtain weapons and ammunition from Ukrainian forces.

Ukrainian President-elect Petro Poroshenko has said that his priority is to bring fighting in the east of the country to an end.