Clashes on ‘new front’ in east Ukraine

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iol pic wld NovoazovskPTOPIX Ukraine~1 AP A smoke rises after shelling in the town of Novoazovsk, eastern Ukraine. Picture: Sergei Grits

Near Novoazovsk, Ukraine -

Clashes erupted on Tuesday close to the Russian border in the south of the war-torn Donetsk region where Ukraine accuses Moscow of trying to open a “new front” into government-held territory.

AFP journalists saw thick smoke rising near Novoazovsk, about 12 kilometres from the Russian border, as fleeing residents said mortar strikes hit the coastal town.

“Russia is trying to create a new front of the armed conflict,” the official Twitter of Kiev's Security and Defence Council said.

Security spokesman Andriy Lysenko told journalists that Novoazovsk on the Azov Sea coast was coming under heavy fire.

“Russian mercenaries are continuing to fire on Novoazovsk this very minute,” he said, adding that “there is a hospital on fire in the town.”

Some residents were seen leaving the area in cars with giant signs reading “children” hastily taped to the back window. One woman told AFP that her family decided to leave after hearing artillery blasts in the city on Tuesday morning.

On Monday Kiev said a convoy of armoured vehicles crossed the border from Russia in the same area but was stopped by border guards.

The Azov coast of Ukraine's Donetsk region has been peaceful for months. Pitched battles had killed over a dozen people in the city of Mariupol about 35 kilometres away in May, however the army ousted the rebels soon after and Kiev has been in control of the city since.

Mariupol is the heart of east Ukraine's metals industry and the seat of Donetsk region's administration they were ousted by the rebels from the regional capital Donetsk. - Sapa-AFP

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