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May 5, 2014 10:16 PM by Jennifer Horbelt

Ukraine sends elite force to key port of Odessa

SLOVYANSK, Ukraine (AP) - At least 12 people are reported dead in today's fighting between Ukrainian government troops and pro-Russian forces in the city of Slovyansk. It's become the focus of the armed insurgency against Ukraine's new interim government.

Ukrainian officials say four officers were killed. Pro-Russia militias report at least eight deaths, including insurgents and local residents.

Ukraine's government is trying to establish control over that city, and the southern city of Odessa. The loss of both cities could leave Ukraine cut off entirely from the Black Sea.

The country already lost a significant part of its coastline in March, when its Black Sea peninsula of Crimea was annexed by Russia.

For weeks, Odessa remained largely peaceful, as violence erupted across eastern Ukraine. But 46 people died Friday after riots broke out and a government building was set on fire. Today, pro-Russia activists in Odessa mourned at the funeral of a regional member of parliament who died of burns from the fire. And they vowed to avenge his death.

But Odessa remained calm today, and pro-Russia forces made no attempt to occupy government buildings there. A well-armed, elite national guard unit from Kiev could be seen patrolling the streets.

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