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Ukraine’s Prez Poroshenko orders closure of state services in east

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Kiev (Nov. 15, 2014):  Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko issued a decree Saturday ordering the withdrawal of all state services from rebel-held eastern regions, a further acknowledgement that the Kremlin-backed statelets are effectively breaking away.

The latest move towards splintering the war-torn ex-Soviet country came after fresh clashes between government troops and rebel fighters claimed at least five civilian lives, including those of two children, despite a nominal ceasefire that has failed to end the bloodshed.

It was announced just over a week after Kiev implemented passport controls around pro-Russian separatist areas in the east, as well as the end of state payments including pensions in the areas.

Some 5.2 million people live in areas affected by conflict in eastern Ukraine, according to the United Nations, centred on major cities such as Donetsk and Lugansk where rebels have declared breakaway states.

Poroshenko told his cabinet to take steps within a week "to terminate the activities of state enterprises, institutions and organisations in the various territories where anti-terrorist operations are being conducted," a statement on his website said.

"This is a decisive step, the games have stopped," the security official added. "All the structures that the state finances will be withdrawn from there."

"Ukraine will no longer finance them. This includes schools, kindergartens and hospitals."

The decree comes with the unrest in Ukraine high on the agenda at a G20 summit in Brisbane, where Western leaders are piling fresh pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin over the Kremlin's backing for the rebels.

Putin intends to cut short his attendance at the summit Sunday, a source in his delegation said, after receiving a frosty reception, with Canada's premier Stephen Harper reportedly telling him to "get out of Ukraine" in one curt exchange.

Russia denies involvement in the conflict, in which a shaky ceasefire agreed in September is in place, stopping some frontline fighting but not artillery bombardments around strategic hotspots.