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Bridge blasts block Donetsk roads


People walk under a destroyed rail bridge over a main road leading into the east Ukraine city of Donetsk (AP)

People walk under a destroyed rail bridge over a main road leading into the east Ukraine city of Donetsk (AP)

People walk under a destroyed rail bridge over a main road leading into the east Ukraine city of Donetsk (AP)

Three bridges over roads leading into the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk have been destroyed by explosions, blocking key access routes to the rebel-held city.

One collapsed bridge is in the village of Novobakhmutivka, where a rail line crosses over a highway leading out of Donetsk. The road leads toward Slovyansk, a former stronghold of the pro-Russian insurgents that was retaken by Ukrainian troops on Saturday after a night of intense fighting.

Anatoly Krasov, who was driving along the road, said he saw an explosion before the bridge collapsed with a large cargo train on it. He said he saw a group of men, wearing the camouflage uniforms often worn by the rebels, get in their cars and drive away from the bridge in the direction of Donetsk.

Two other bridges on roads leading from Slovyansk to Donetsk were also destroyed today in the villages of Zakitne and Seleznevka, the Road Transportation Agency of Donetsk Region announced.

Rebel fighters from Slovyansk and other towns taken over by the Ukrainian army regrouped yesterday in Donetsk, capital of a region where pro-Russian separatists have declared independence as the Donetsk People's Republic.

The bridges' destruction may be an attempt by the rebels to buy time and slow down any assault by Ukrainian forces on the city.

Pavel Gubarev, the self-described governor of the Donetsk People's Republic, has promised "real partisan war around the whole perimeter of Donetsk".

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The insurgents control the regional administration building and checkpoints on the city outskirts, and they were cheered by thousands of supporters waving flags from Russia and the self-proclaimed Republic yesterday.

They also face little internal resistance from police forces or government officials, who have done nothing in recent months to hinder their free movement around the city.

But it is unclear whether they will be able to put up major resistance in the face of a Ukrainian attack. Ukrainian forces demonstrated their superior firepower in repelling a rebel attempt to take control of Donetsk's airport in late May, a battle that left dozens of rebel fighters dead.

Russia's Foreign Ministry has made its first statement about Slovyansk since the city fell.

It tiptoed around the rebels' defeat, only mentioning Slovyansk as part of a long list of civilian casualties.

Russia urged the European Union to put new pressure on Ukraine, which it accused of waging a "massive military operation which has resulted in the deaths of peaceful people".

On a trip to Bulgaria, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov pressed again for a new ceasefire in Ukraine.

He also condemned the OSCE for its "unrealistic demand" that the talks take place in Kiev, the capital, rather than in Donetsk.

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