Kiev:  Ukrainian authorities have sent a special force unit to the southern port of Odessa to try and halt the fighting between government troops and pro-Russia militants, a media report said Tuesday.

Kiev said the force, based on “civil activists”, would replace local police who had failed to tackle rebel actions over the weekend, Xinhua reported.

Clashes between pro-government and anti-government protestors in Odessa Friday killed at least 43 people and injured 174 others.

Among the dead, mostly pro-Russia protestors, 30 choked to death when radicals set fire to a trade union building — eight others died when they jumped out of windows of the burning building.

The dispatch of the special force was seen as a signal that Kiev fears the situation in Odessa will escalate into a civil war while it is tackling rebellion in the east.

The loss of Odessa would be catastrophic for the new government in Kiev, leaving the country cut off from the Black Sea.

Ukraine lost a significant part of its coastline in March, when its Crimean Peninsula voted to join Russia.

Meanwhile, Kiev launched a fresh wave of “anti-terror” operations in the eastern city of Sloviansk Monday to reclaim the city, which has been under the control of pro-Russian activists.

At least four Ukrainian servicemen were killed and 30 injured during the operation, the Interior Ministry said.

Pro-Russian rebels also shot down a Ukrainian military helicopter near Sloviansk, but the pilots survived, the defence ministry said.

Kiev and the West have blamed Moscow for inciting unrest and splitting Ukraine.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has presented a five-point plan to solve the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

Steinmeier called on Ukraine, Russia, the US and the European Union (EU) to meet again in Geneva and send on this occasion a “strong political message” that agreements reached at the first Geneva conference would actually be put into practice.

The minister wrote about the importance to ensure that the presidential election in Ukraine, slated for May 25, could be held properly, as this will allow the leadership in Kiev to “get new legitimacy”.

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