7 Sep 2014

Ukraine shelling threatens delicate ceasefire

Shelling in the eastern areas of Mariupol and Donetsk shake the Ukraine ceasefire agreed just two days ago, but both sides are blaming each other.

Renewed shelling in Donetsk and Mairupol in eastern Ukraine have threatened to shatter the ceasefire agreed between Ukraine and pro-Russian forces on Friday.

One woman died and three people were injured during shelling overnight in the port of Mariupol in eastern Ukraine, the local city administration said.

Ukrainian government forces came under fire late on Saturday on the eastern outskirts of Mariupol, in the first serious test of the ceasefire.

The militias are not resorting and will not resort to arms Separatist leader Andrei Purgin

Prolonged shelling was also heard in an area north of Donetsk with plumes of black smoke filling the sky on Sunday morning, said Reuters.

The shelling came from near the airport, which has been in the hands of Ukrainian government forces even though pro-Russian rebels control the city.

Blaming each other

The ceasefire was agreed by envoys from Ukraine, the separatist leadership, Russia and Europe’s OSCE security watchdog on Friday in Minsk, is part of a peace plan intended to end a five-month conflict that has killed nearly 3,000 people.

The renewed shelling broke out hours after Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko had agreed in a telephone call the truce was holding and had discussed ways of getting in humanitarian aid.

Both sides blamed the other for the violations to ceasefire.

Ukraine shelling threatens delicate ceasefire

In the days before the ceasefire, government forces had been trying to repel a major rebel offensive targeting Mariupol, a key port for Ukraine’s steel exports.

Kiev says the rebels were backed by Russian troops, a charge denied by Moscow.

Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko agreed to the ceasefire after Ukraine accused Russia of sending troops and arms onto its territory in support of the separatists, who had suffered big losses over the summer.

Moscow denies sending troops or arming the rebels.

Mr Poroshenko has since announced that he has reached agreement with five Nato countries to receive weapons and military advisers.

The US, France, Italy, Poland and Norway all agreed to give help to Ukraine during last week’s Nato summit, said Mr Poroshenko’s aide, Yuri Lytsenko.

Nato action

Mr Poroshenko spent Thursday and Friday at a Nato summit in Wales, where US President Barack Obama and other leaders urged Russia President Vladimir Putin to pull its forces out of Ukraine.

Nato also approved wide-ranging plans to boost its defences in eastern Europe in response to the Ukraine crisis.

A separatist leader, Andrei Purgin, told Russia’s RIA news agency: “Despite the provocations of Ukrainian forces, the militia of the people’s republics (self-proclaimed “states” in Donetsk and nearby Luhansk that do not recognise Kiev’s authority) will keep firmly to the Minsk agreements.

“The militias are not resorting and will not resort to arms.”

The peace roadmap agreed on Friday also includes an exchange of prisoners of war and establishing a humanitarian corridor for refugees and aid.

Interfax news agency reported that the first prisoners were handed over to government forces late on Saturday but this report could not be confirmed immediately.