14 July 2014
Last updated at 11:34
Luhansk: Fighting in the area has intensified in recent days
The Ukrainian air force says it has delivered “five powerful air strikes” on targets in the eastern Luhansk region in a bid to end a rebel blockade of a strategic airport there.
Several targets were hit near the airport in the rebel-held city of Luhansk, a military spokesman said.
President Petro Poroshenko’s Facebook page says Ukrainian forces have now pushed rebels away from the airport.
But the pro-Russian rebels in Luhansk deny there have been new air strikes.
Mr Poroshenko said on his Facebook page that Ukrainian forces had managed to break through a rebel cordon surrounding Luhansk airport.
Military spokesman Oleksiy Dmytrashkivskyy told Ukrainian television: “The [Ukrainian air force] delivered five powerful air strikes on targets where militants and hardware were concentrated. Air strikes were delivered on targets near the Luhansk airfield; two strikes were made near Izvaryne and one near Lysychansk [both in Luhansk region].”
Russian volunteers parade a rebel flag in Luhansk
A resident in Luhansk has told the BBC that some air strikes hit Luhansk on Monday.
Fighting in the area has intensified since a rebel rocket attack near the Russian border on Friday, in which at least 19 government soldiers were killed. Mr Poroshenko vowed tough retaliation for that attack.
Tensions rose further over the weekend when Russia accused Ukrainian forces of shelling across the border, killing one person and wounding two others.
At least 15 civilians were killed in Luhansk and the neighbouring Donetsk region on Sunday, reports say.
Germany and Russia have urged direct talks between Kiev and the rebels.
And the UK and US have renewed calls for Russia to de-escalate the situation in eastern Ukraine.
In a telephone conversation, British Prime Minister David Cameron and President Barack Obama stressed the need for Moscow to take further steps towards peace or face further sanctions.
Pro-Russian separatist rebels have been fighting the government in Kiev since declaring independence in Luhansk and the neighbouring region of Donetsk in April.
The government began an “anti-terrorist operation” in April to crush the rebellion in the eastern regions.
More than 1,000 civilians and combatants are believed to have died in the fighting, which followed Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March.