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Separatists, government troops continue faceoff in eastern Ukraine

By Greg Botelho and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
updated 3:56 PM EDT, Sat June 14, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: State media: Russian ambassador will go to Ukraine president's inauguration
  • Ukraine's Luhansk, Donetsk regions remain focal points of unrest
  • Ukrainian troops block a main road between Donetsk and Slovyansk
  • The military takes over Krasny Liman, though militants are dug in nearby

(CNN) -- Ukraine is days away from getting a new president, though seemingly much longer from securing a lasting peace -- as demonstrated yet again Thursday, with its military and separatists continuing to face off in eastern and southern parts of the country.

As has been true for weeks, the deadly clashes are centered in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. Pro-Russian separatists have seized two military bases, and civilian deaths have been reported.

Ukrainian National Guard troops on Thursday blocked the main road between the cities of Donetsk and Slovyansk, a hotbed for separatists. Slovyansk itself appeared relatively calm, though there was a real potential the area could erupt at any moment with military and separatist positions separated by less than 1 kilometer.

In nearby Krasny Liman, a Ukrainian flag flew over City Hall after government troops took over that community from separatist forces. This turnover followed two days of heavy fighting, with residents reporting they heard firing overnight.

Silence surrounds shelled Ukrainian town
Video emerges of airstrike aftermath
Ukrainian soldiers sit on an armored vehicle as they take up a position in a sunflower field near Donetsk, Ukraine, on Thursday, July 10. Here's a look at the upheaval that has persisted in eastern Ukraine since the election of President Petro Poroshenko. Ukrainian soldiers sit on an armored vehicle as they take up a position in a sunflower field near Donetsk, Ukraine, on Thursday, July 10. Here's a look at the upheaval that has persisted in eastern Ukraine since the election of President Petro Poroshenko.
Ukraine after the election
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Photos: Ukraine after the election Photos: Ukraine after the election
Separatists blame military for airstrike

Still, any celebration had to be muted by the fact that militants remain close by, dug in on a main road several miles east of the city.

These tensions simmered while, hundreds of miles away in Brussels, Belgium, the situation in Ukraine dominated a meeting of G7 leaders.

U.S. President Barack Obama threatened more economic sanctions against Russia -- which many in the West accuse of fomenting instability and violence in Ukraine by allowing weapons into the region and supporting separatists -- unless it takes key steps in the coming weeks.

Obama warns Russia about continued meddling

Those include recognizing Petro Poroshenko, who recently won the first national election since the unrest began last November, as Ukraine's President when he is inaugurated Saturday. Until now, the Kremlin has refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Kiev-based government that took over after the ouster of then-President Viktor Yanukovych.

Neither Poroshenko nor his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, ruled out the possibility of meeting when they are in France over the coming days.

If they do, they'll have their work cut out for them, given the deep divisions about what's happened in Ukraine and what should happen next.

Still, the two countries appear to be coming together at least in one respect: Russia's ambassador to Ukraine, Mikhail Zurabov, will attend Poroshenko's inauguration, according to state-run RIA Novosti.

"[Zurabov] is returning to Kiev in order to continue executing his functions," added Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich.

Conflicting accounts in heightened eastern Ukraine fighting

Obama vows to stand with Ukraine as he meets President-elect in Poland

CNN's Tim Lister contributed to this report.

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