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Death Toll Climbs as Government Forces Near Donetsk
By Harold Hutchison

Ukrainian forces are nearing Donetsk, a city of 900,000 people held by pro-Russian insurgents in the eastern portion of the former Soviet Republic. The advance has not been without cost as the death toll in the ongoing crisis between Ukraine and Russia continued to climb.

According to a report by Voice of America, the total casualty count for Ukrainian government forces climbed over the 200 mark. VOA also reported that hundreds of rebels have also died – as well as a number of civilians.

A good chunk of the Ukrainian casualty count is from the downing of two Ukrainian aircraft. One incident, the 14 June, 2014 shoot-down of an Ilyushin Il-76 “Candid” resulted in 49 of the deaths. Another incident on 29 May, 2014, the downing of a Mi-17 “Hip,” killed nine Ukrainian troops.

Over the weekend, Ukrainian forces liberated the town of Slovyansk, where pro-Russian insurgents had dug in. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has vowed to liberate the remaining rebel-held areas. The autonomous republic of Crimea seceded from Ukraine and sought admittance to Russia.

The crisis began when former Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych refused to sign trade deals with the European Union, instead preferring to accept aid from Russia. After weeks of protests that turned violent, Yanukovych was forced out of office.