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Mayor: Rebels enter strategic southeast Ukrainian town after 3 days of shelling

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NOVOAZOVSK, Ukraine —

The mayor of a town in southeastern Ukraine that has been under heavy shelling for three days says rebel forces have entered the town.

PHOTO: Smoke rises after shelling in the town of Novoazovsk, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. Towering columns of smoke rose Tuesday from outside a city in Ukraine's far southeast after what residents said was a heavy artillery barrage. It was the second straight day that attacks were reported in the vicinity of Novoazovsk, which is in eastern Ukraine's separatist Donetsk region but previously had seen little fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Smoke rises after shelling in the town of Novoazovsk, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. Towering columns of smoke rose Tuesday from outside a city in Ukraine's far southeast after what residents said was a heavy artillery barrage. It was the second straight day that attacks were reported in the vicinity of Novoazovsk, which is in eastern Ukraine's separatist Donetsk region but previously had seen little fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

Novoazovsk is in a strategically significant location on the shore of the Azov Sea and on the road linking Russia to the Russian-annexed Crimean peninsula.

In a brief phone call Wednesday, Mayor Oleg Sidorkin told The Associated Press that rebels had penetrated into the town. There were no immediate details on the size of the rebel force.

This is the first time in the four-month-long conflict that fighting has reached as far south as the seacoast and suggests that the rebels are emboldened.

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Photo Gallery:
PHOTO: Relatives and friends say goodbye to volunteers, their unit's flag on the right, before they were sent to the eastern part of Ukraine to join the ranks of special battalion unit fighting against pro-Russian separatists, in Kiev, Ukraine, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. It was the second straight day that attacks were reported in the vicinity of Novoazovsk, which is in eastern Ukraine’s separatist Donetsk region but previously had seen little fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
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