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Gunfire rattles east Ukraine ahead of 2nd round of European-brokered talks to resolve crisis


A pro-Russian militant smokes a cigarette as he takes his position preparing to fight against Ukrainian government troops at a checkpoint blocking the major highway which links Kharkiv, outside Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Friday, May 16, 2014. Outside the strategic city of Slovyansk, which has been the key stronghold of the pro-Russian insurgents for more than a month now, the armed separatists installed a new check-point on the eastern approaches of the city blocking the major highway which links Kharkiv, the capital of the neighboring region, and the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don across the border. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko) (The Associated Press)

Sustained gunfire has been heard near the eastern Ukrainian city of Slovyansk, the stronghold of pro-Russia fighters, ahead of a second round of European-brokered talks aimed at resolving the crisis.

The gunfire began when forces loyal to the Kiev government moved in to protect a television tower near the village of Andriyivka. Residents said it went on through the night. Debris from the shooting was visible Saturday morning. It was unclear if anyone was wounded.

Government forces have achieved only limited results in quashing the pro-Russia militias that have declared independence for Ukraine's eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions. In one city, they got crucial assistance from steelworkers, who retook government buildings and cleared away barricades.

More talks were to be held Saturday, this time in the eastern city of Kharkiv.