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Guards of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic keep watch on the town hall of the besieged city of Slavyansk on June 24. / John MacDougall, AFP/Getty Images

Pro-Russian separatists said Thursday that they attacked government forces at an airport in east Ukraine, defying a government cease-fire as a European Union summit in Belgium considers tougher sanctions on Russia for sparking dissension in Ukraine.

The attack was reported on the website of Igor Strelkov, also known as Igor Girkin, the self-styled commander in chief of the Donetsk People's Republic, according to the U.S. Treasury, which has banned U.S. companies from doing business with him. Fighters attacking the Kramatorsk airport destroyed a Grad rocket launcher and a BTR-80 armored personnel carrier, Strelkov said.

Earlier Thursday in Paris, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called on Russia "to show in the next hours" that it is moving to help disarm separatists in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he supports a cease-fire plan announced by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. On Wednesday the Russian parliament agreed to rescind the authority it issued for Putin to use military force in neighboring Ukraine following Russia's invasion of Ukraine's Crimea region and its subsequent annexation.

Speaking alongside French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Kerry said "it is critical" that Russia do more to encourage separatists "to lay down their weapons and begin to become part of a legitimate political process."

Leaders of the European Union meeting Thursday and Friday in Ypres, Belgium, will discuss additional sanctions on Russia for its role in the Ukraine unrest, Kerry said.

"We all agree that they need to be ready," he told reporters. "But our preference is not to have to be into a sanctions mode."

Fabius said a long conversation took place Wednesday among the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine.

"There are commitments which have been taken, and we hope that it will be implemented today and in the coming days," Fabius said.



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: Separatists attack airport in east Ukraine, defy truce

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