July 10, 2014 - 18:23 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Ukrainian forces regained more ground but sustained further casualties on Thursday, July 10 in clashes with pro-Russian activists, while two Western allies urged Russia's Vladimir Putin to exert more pressure on the activists to find a negotiated end to the conflict, according to Reuters.
Government forces have recently gained the upper hand in the three-month conflict against activists in the Russian-speaking eastern regions in which more than 200 government troops have been killed as well as hundreds of civilians and activist fighters.
The Ukrainian military says it has a plan to deliver a "nasty surprise" to the heavily-armed activists who have dug in Donetsk, a city of 900,000 people, after being pushed out of their bastion in Slaviansk at the weekend.
In a further success, military spokesman Vladyslav Seleznyov said government forces on Thursday re-took the town of Siversk, east of Slaviansk, when activists fled.
An activist confirmed the government's version saying it was "more or less correct". "There was no sense in holding it and reinforcing it (Siversk) because there was a big risk of being encircled".
But casualties mounted on the Ukrainian side with the deaths of three more Ukrainian soldiers in two attacks on Wednesday night in different parts of the east, the military said.
Government forces guarding Donetsk's main international airport, scene of bitter fighting in late May, came under mortar fire on Thursday but the activist attack was repelled, Seleznyov said.
In further international diplomacy to end the worst Russia-West crisis since the Cold War, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Putin by telephone to "exert all necessary pressure on the activists to bring them to negotiate effectively," an Elysee Palace statement said.