Ukraine troops abandon key airport

UKRANIAN forces have withdrawn from the airport of the eastern city of Luhansk following clashes with pro-Russian rebels, military officials say.

The announcement came after the two sides were engaged in all-night fighting.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has urged negotiators meeting in the Belarus capital, Minsk, to make an "immediate ceasefire" their priority.

Some 2,600 people have died in eastern Ukraine since fighting began in April.

The conflict broke out after Russia's annexation of Ukraine's southern Crimea peninsula in March.

The rebels have been gaining ground on Ukrainian forces in recent days, in both the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, and further south around the port of Mariupol.

Ukraine and the West blame Russian military support for the rebel advances, saying armoured columns have crossed the border - allegations rejected by Russia's President Vladimir Putin.

He has accused European leaders of ignoring the Ukrainian army "directly targeting civilians".

On Sunday, he said the issue of "statehood" for eastern Ukraine needed to be discussed to ensure the interests of local people were "definitely upheld".

Ukraine's security council confirmed on Monday that its troops had withdrawn from Luhansk airport "in an organised manner".

Clashes are said to still be taking place near the airport of the city of Donetsk, with separatists claiming that two Ukrainian platoons have surrendered.

There were also reports of an attack on a Ukrainian patrol vessel in the Azov Sea on Sunday night. - BBC News

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