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As Ukrainian forces push their way into Donetsk, home of the self-proclaimed rebel state and Ukraine's fifth-largest city, the rebels are calling for Russia to help.

In recent days, fighting has intensified near Luhansk and Donetsk with government forces battling rebels forces at the outskirts of the cities. According to Al Jazeera, nine civilians died in fighting on Sunday.

Six people were killed in shelling and gunfire on the outskirts of Donetsk, Deputy Mayor Kostantyn Savinov said on Sunday, while city officials said three others were killed in shelling of Luhansk over the previous 24 hours.

As the New York Times noted last week civilian deaths in the Ukrainian crisis has neared 800 since April and has grown steadily in recent weeks, despite the attention brought on by the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

With Russia seemingly sidelined, Ukrainian forces are now making gains and have the rebel stronghold of Donetsk in their sights. From the AP report:

In danger of being encircled, the separatists renewed their calls for Russia to send troops to their aid. To support their operations, they have been confiscating vehicles and food from residents and businesses. 

Could this be the rebels' Waterloo? They'd prefer another military-historical parallel. From the Telegraph:

On Thursday, Igor Girkin, the separatists' military commander, was forced to issue a diktat declaring that Donetsk was officially in a "state of siege". His friend, the "people's governor" Pavel Gubarev, promises a new Stalingrad if Kiev-backed forces move on the city. 

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