Ukraine crisis: Kiev forces win back Mariupol

A charred rebel armoured car could be seen after the fighting in Mariupol

Government troops in eastern Ukraine have won back the port city of Mariupol from pro-Russian separatist rebels after heavy fighting.

Interior Minister Arseny Avakov said the security forces had successfully brought separatist strongholds in the city "under control".

Five pro-Russian rebels were reported killed and at least four government soldiers injured in the city.

Rebels elsewhere in the region have confirmed they now have three tanks.

The appearance of the tanks, filmed in various towns in the Donetsk region, sparked a row between Kiev and Moscow, with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko protesting to his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

Russia denied Ukrainian allegations that the tanks had entered Ukraine from its territory.

Hundreds of combatants and civilians have been killed since pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk and neighbouring Luhansk regions declared independence after holding referendums last month, which were deemed illegal by the government in Kiev.

Friday's operation seems to have been a success after many setbacks for the Ukrainian forces, the BBC's David Stern reports from the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.

However, Mariupol has been fought over intensively before and it cannot be ruled out that the insurgents may return to try to take it back again, our correspondent adds.
'Flag raised'

Mr Avakov said government forces had raised the national flag over Mariupol's council building. The port city lies on the Sea of Azov in the south of Donetsk region which has changed hands several time during the conflict.

The operation had begun at 04:50 (01:50 GMT), the interior minister added.
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