Gunbattle in eastern Ukraine kills four: Local leader

A pro-Russian protester wearing a balaclava and holding a baseball bat sits next to piles of bricks and tyres outside a regional government building in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine April 19, 2014. Three pro-Russian militants and one attacker were ki
A pro-Russian protester wearing a balaclava and holding a baseball bat sits next to piles of bricks and tyres outside a regional government building in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine April 19, 2014. Three pro-Russian militants and one attacker were killed in a gunbattle near the volatile eastern Ukrainian town of Slavyansk early Sunday, a local leader told journalists. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

SLAVYANSK, Ukraine (AFP) - Three pro-Russian militants and one attacker were killed in a gunbattle near the volatile eastern Ukrainian town of Slavyansk early Sunday, a local leader told journalists.

Mr Vyatcheslav Ponomarev said the battle broke out at a barricade put up in a village east of Slavyansk, which is under the control of pro-Russian militants.

Separatist gunmen maintain a firm grip over a string of towns across Ukraine's industrial east despite an international deal signed last week demanding they vacate state buildings they are occupying.

Authorities in Kiev say they have suspended military operations against the pro-Moscow rebels until after the Easter holidays, which end on Monday, in a bid to give the agreement time to stick.

The heads of the Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox churches traded barbs over the crisis in the country as believers flocked to church for Easter services.