Ceasefire in Ukraine breaks down after two days

Heavily armed pro-Russian rebels await orders after fighting flared again. Picture: AP

Heavily armed pro-Russian rebels await orders after fighting flared again. Picture: AP

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A WOMAN died and at least four people were wounded when fighting flared again in eastern Ukraine overnight into yesterday morning, jeopardising a ceasefire struck less than two days earlier between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists.

The accord, brokered by envoys from Ukraine, the separatist leadership, Russia and Europe’s OSCE security watchdog, is part of a peace plan intended to end a five-month conflict that has killed nearly 3,000 people and caused the sharpest confrontation between Russia and the West since the Cold War.

Shelling resumed near the port of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov late on Saturday night, just hours after Russian president Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko had agreed in a phonecall that the truce was holding.

Fighting also broke out early yesterday morning on the northern outskirts of rebel-held Donetsk, the region’s industrial hub.

Eyewitnesses reported plumes of black smoke filling the sky near the airport, which has been in the hands of government forces.

“Listen to the sound of the ceasefire,” joked one armed rebel. “There’s a proper battle going on there.”

The two cities then turned quiet for much of yesterday, but in the early evening eye witnesses reported several mortar blasts within the city confines of Donetsk. They damaged a bridge where the rebels had erected a roadblock.

In a new report on the conflict, Amnesty International accused both the rebels and Ukrainian militia of war crimes and it published satellite images it said showed a build-up of Russian armour and artillery in eastern Ukraine.

“Our evidence shows that Russia is fuelling the conflict, both through direct interference and by supporting the separatists in the east. Russia must stop the steady flow of weapons and other support to an insurgent force heavily implicated in gross human rights violations,” Amnesty’s secretary-general, Salil Shetty, said in a statement.

Moscow denies dispatching forces or arming the rebels despite what Nato says is overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Mr Poroshenko spent Thursday and Friday at a Nato summit in Wales at which US president Barack Obama and other leaders urged Mr Putin to pull forces out of Ukraine. Nato also approved wide-ranging plans to boost its defences in eastern Europe in response to the Ukraine crisis.

A senior aide to Mr Poroshenko, Yuri Lytsenko, wrote on his Facebook page yesterday that Kiev had reached agreement at the summit on receiving weapons and military advisers from five allies – the United States, France, Italy, Poland and Norway.

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