Sunday, 7 September 2014

Ukraine shelling rattles ceasefire

Ukraine crisis: Shelling near Mariupol threatens tense truceImages showed a government checkpoint east of Mariupol in flames after the latest shelling
  • Foreign fighters on both sides
Explosions have been heard near the south-eastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, a day after the government and rebels agreed a ceasefire.

A BBC correspondent in the city says intense blasts from the eastern edges have rippled across the city.
Earlier, the Ukrainian and Russian presidents said the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine was “largely holding”.
The Red Cross said aid trucks heading for the rebel-held city of Luhansk had turned back because of shelling.
The ceasefire deal was signed during talks between representatives of Ukraine, Russia, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and pro-Russia rebels in Belarus and came into effect at 15:00 GMT on Friday.
There were no reports of major fighting in the east for the first 24 hours, but by Saturday evening the BBC’s Fergal Keane tweeted from Mariupol that shelling had resumed.
There were explosions on the eastern fringes of the city close to government checkpoints, he said, and duels between artillery on both sides.
However, in the early hours of Sunday the shelling appeared to have abated.
Our correspondent says it is too early to say what impact this will have on the ceasefire across the eastern region, but it doesn’t bode well.
Aid blocked
Some 2,600 people have died in fighting after pro-Russian rebels seized towns in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions in April – a month after Russia’s annexation of the southern Crimean peninsula.
A Ukrainian army tank guards a road east of Mariupol as residents leave the area by carA car riddled with bullets lies abandoned on the outskirts of Mariupol
Russia has repeatedly denied accusations by Ukraine and the West that it has been sending regular troops into eastern Ukraine to help the rebels.
Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin spoke by phone on Saturday to discuss steps to make Friday’s truce durable.
In a statement Mr Poroshenko said they had stressed the need “to maximise the involvement” of the OSCE in monitoring the truce.
The two leaders also discussed ways of co-operating in delivering humanitarian aid to the region.
For his part, President Putin said in a statement that an agreement was reached to “continue dialogue”.
Ukrainian troops have pushed rebels back but recently faced a counter-offensive
The spokesman for Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, Andriy Lysenko, said earlier on Saturday that the rebels had fired 10 times on Ukrainian troops since the truce.
Unconfirmed reports also say a number of fighters from Ukraine’s Aydar battalion were ambushed and killed after the ceasefire.
The rebel leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Aleksandr Zakharchenko, said the truce was “not being fully observed” and that rebels had been subjected to shelling in the town of Amvrosiyivka near Donetsk.
Also, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a tweet that aid trucks on their way to Luhansk had been forced to turn back by shelling, without giving any further details.
A BBC crew that travelled to Donetsk airport on Saturday morning heard gunshots and small explosions but residents said the night had been quiet.
Meanwhile, Russia vowed to respond if the European Union imposed new sanctions over the Ukraine crisis.
The EU says the sanctions, targeting more Russian individuals, will be introduced on Monday but could be suspended if Russia withdraws troops from eastern Ukraine and observes the truce.
The Russian foreign ministry said the EU was “practically sending a signal of direct support to the ‘party of war’ in Kiev”.
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