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Army, rebels clash in Donetsk outskirts

A young boy takes a picture of a crater in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, on July 22, 2014
A young boy takes a picture of a crater in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, on July 22, 2014

Ukrainian forces clashed with separatist pro-Russian rebels on the outskirts of Donetsk on Tuesday, a day after five people were reported killed by shelling in the area.

AFP reporters heard artillery fire coming from the Ukrainian side in the village of Oktyabrsky close to the city's airport.

Around 30 rebels -- some in balaclavas or black pirate-style bandanas -- immediately raised their Kalashnikov rifles into firing position.

Five blasts rang out, each closer than the last.

"They're firing on civilians! These are Ukrainians! They have become like wild animals," said one of the fighters, who declined to provide his name or city of origin.

On a road nearby, there was a bombed-out Ukrainian T-64 tank. The charred, deformed bodies of three Ukrainian soldiers could be seen lying side by side next to the wreckage.

"We are defending ourselves. I don't want to kill my brothers but we are under attack," a 39-year-old rebel and Donetsk native who said he fired the fatal anti-tank rocket that hit the vehicle, told AFP at the scene.

The man, who also declined to give his name, said he hit the tank during fighting on Monday.

"We will bury the bodies or maybe exchange them for bodies of our own guys," he said, as flies swarmed around the corpses under a scorching sun.

Another rebel, who carried a machine-gun and wore camouflage uniform, said there had been exchanges of fire on Tuesday further up the road, near the village of Pervomayskoye.

"I will fight until death," the man said.