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Coming to You Live From the Government Military Offensive in Eastern Ukraine

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has wasted no time bringing the fight to pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine. This week, he halted a ceasefire and launched a military offensive to retake territory held by the rebels. As Russian President Vladimir Putin is sending vague signs that he hopes to de-escalate the conflict, Poroshenko is pushing forward, using his military to regain control of restive cities and border posts.

After being repeatedly humiliated by rebel forces, the Ukrainian military is starting to see some success, recapturing the Dolzhansky border post and taking areas around the eastern city of Slovyansk. There is intense fighting in eastern Ukraine as its army has unleashed heavy artillery.

The ongoing conflict continues unfolding in real time on social media, providing a fairly unfiltered snapshot of Europe's first military confrontation since the 1990s war in the Balkans. See government forces firing artillery outside the eastern city of Slovyansk in photo below. The Ukrainian government claims it has retaken several small villages in the surrounding area recently.

With Ukraine's army bearing down on rebel forces civilians are caught in the middle. According to Ukrainska Pravda, pro-Russian separatists blew up a civilian car close to Kryva Luka, a village by the city of Kramatorsk. According to the report, a 10-year-old girl was seriously injured and both her parents killed.

   

In one 24-hour period, hundreds of separatists and at least five Ukrainian soldiers were killed, Ukrainian National Defense and Security Council spokesman Andriy Lysenko said on Wednesday. Since fighting broke out in April, 200 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed and 619 wounded, Lysenko added. Rebel forces, meanwhile, say that their death toll has reached 1,000.

Morale among separatist fighters appears to be waning as the Ukrainian military advances. On Wednesday, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry posted a video on YouTube purporting to show rebel forces surrendering to their Ukrainian counterparts near the city of Metalist. It comes amid other recent reports and videos of separatist laying down their weapons in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Videos, such as the one below from the city of Slovyansk, supposedly showing the destruction caused by Ukrainian forces' shelling are also emerging.

Pro-Russian media outlets are releasing similar videos. The Russian government and its media allies continue claiming that the Ukrainian military eagerly commits acts of violence on civilians.The video below, which contains graphic material, reportedly shows destruction caused by shelling north of Luhansk.

GENYA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty Images

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What to Get the Woman Who Has (Stolen) Everything

Today we celebrate the 85th birthday of Imelda Marcos, the Steel Butterfly, widow of an ousted dictator. Her reputation precedes her: She was a collector of shoes and a friend of Richard Nixon's. She entertained Muammar al-Qaddafi in a "coconut palace" so opulent that Pope John Paul II refused to enter. Her family plundered $10 billion from the Philippines' coffers but her charm is such that no jury has ever convicted her; indeed, she's now a member of the Philippine legislature. She has gold, jewels, a thriving political dynasty, and -- even in her 80s -- a good deal of beauty left. So, what birthday gift could one possibly give to the woman who truly has everything?

1. The complete Sex and the City box set

Both Imelda Marcos and Carrie Bradshaw built their lives around "love and labels." Imelda was a profligate spender who believed that love conquered all, and that dressing well was a service to her nation. When a popular uprising forced her to flee the presidential palace and go into exile, she infamously left thousands of designer shoes behind.

It's kind of like that time in Season 4, when Carrie's boyfriend threatened to evict her if she didn't pony up a down payment for her apartment. She exclaimed to her friends: "'I've spent $40,000 on shoes and I have no place to live? I will literally be the old woman who lived in her shoes!" Imelda would so identify with that.

2. $8.5 million worth of jewels

More specifically, the $8.5 million worth of jewels that the Philippines government confiscated from Imelda on the grounds that she acquired them through graft. Imelda has, for years, pleaded for the return of the jewels, which include a 150-karat Burmese Ruby and a 30-karat Bulgari diamond bracelet, pouting that she is left with nothing but "junk." (Still, she rarely appears in public without an embarrassment of baubles.)

3. A private showing of David Byrne's "Revolutionary Musical Experience"

A woman with so much pizzazz clearly would inspire a biographical album. Her story spoke to acclaimed musician and former leader of the Talking Heads, David Byrne. "Here Lies Love," is now an immersive, theatrical show that chronicles the meteoric rise and ignominious downfall of the Steel Butterfly through song and dance. Unfortunately, the show has never been staged in the Philippines. So, what better way to celebrate its subject's birthday than to organize a private, remote performance? Imelda loves to dance, after all. 

4. A second chance at Malacanang Palace

Obviously, two decades spent living large in the presidential palace isn't enough for Imelda. On her birthday, she made clear to reporters that she's ready to move back in -- this time, with dowager status, and her son, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., in the executive office. "I still have a vision and hope to bring more help to the Filipino people," she said. "Malacanang would be a great help." (It's worth noting that her family already controls the island of Leyte and that at least seven of her family members hold public office.)

5. A "hero's burial" for her husband

In birthday celebration, Imelda visited the tomb of her late husband, Ferdinand Marcos, whose body is preserved within a back-lit glass case inside a refrigerated mausoleum in his hometown. As pictured above, Imelda dramatically kissed the glass enshrining her beloved before saying that her real birthday wish is to give her husband a "hero's burial." Marcos died in exile and the Philippines refuses to interr his body in the cemetery where the country's other presidents are laid to rest. Imelda and her sons have lobbied for a "hero's burial" for years, with little luck. Still, a girl can dream.

Happy Birthday, Imelda.


TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images