June 19, 2014 1:00 pm

Insurgent leader says rebels losing battle in eastern Ukraine

A pro-Russian fighter holds a gun during a handover of the bodies of Ukrainian troops killed in the plane shot down near Luhansk, at a check point in the village of Karlivka near Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, June 18, 2014.

AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka

MOSCOW – Intense fighting is raging in eastern Ukraine and an insurgent leader says rebels are losing the battle.

Both the government and the rebels said fighting was taking place Thursday near Krasnyi Liman, just east of the rebel stronghold of Slovyansk, a city in the Donetsk region that has been the epicenter of the insurgency in Ukraine.

Rebel chief Igor Strelkov said in a statement on YouTube that his men are far outnumbered and outgunned by Ukrainian forces and are likely to retreat. He said the Ukrainian military advance would completely cut rebel supply lines to Slovyansk and issued a desperate plea to the Kremlin for military assistance.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a bid to avoid further Western sanctions, has stonewalled the insurgents’ pleas to join Russia and welcomed a peace plan proposed by the Ukrainian president.

© 2014 The Canadian Press

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