Ukraine fight­ing for sym­pa­thy: Putin


Salvos of ar­tillery shook east­ern Ukraine on Thurs­day, the fifth day of es­ca­lated fight­ing be­tween govern­ment troops and Rus­sia-backed sep­a­ratist rebels. Two Ukrainian troops were killed overnight and 10 oth­ers wounded, the govern­ment said, while rebels said one of their fight­ers was killed.

Shelling ap­peared to in­ten­sify af­ter night­fall and both sides re­ported civil­ian deaths — two in Avdiivka and one in Donetsk city.

Re­porters for The As­so­ci­ated Press heard Grad rocket launch­ers fired on both sides of the con­flict dur­ing the night. In the af­ter­noon, shelling was heard in the dis­tance from Avdiivka, a govern­ment-held town just north of Donetsk, the largest rebel-con­trolled city.

At least 15 peo­ple have been re­ported killed since the fight­ing around Avdiivka surged over the week­end.

More than 9,700 peo­ple have been killed since the war with sep­a­ratist rebels be­gan in April 2014. An agree­ment reached nearly two years ago called for a cease-fire and a pull­back of heavy weaponry by both sides, but skir­mishes per­sist.

Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin on Thurs­day ac­cused Ukraine of start­ing the lat­est es­ca­la­tion to rally sup­port from the new U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tion and other West­ern pow­ers.

Ukraine is con­cerned that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump could roll back some sanc­tions im­posed on Rus­sia for its ac­tions in Ukraine, and that Euro­pean Union mem­bers could fol­low suit.

“The Ukrainian lead­er­ship needs money, and the best way to get the EU, the U.S. and in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions to pay is by pos­ing as a vic­tim of ag­gres­sion,” Putin said in Bu­dapest af­ter a meet­ing with Hun­gar­ian Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Or­ban.

Shelling over the week­end dam­aged wa­ter, heat­ing and elec­tric­ity sup­plies in Avdiivka amid a strong cold snap. Res­i­dents’ nerves were raw.

In Brus­sels, Euro­pean Union Pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk urged Moscow to pres­sure the sep­a­ratists to make sure the flare-up of fight­ing ends and a cease-fire is re­stored.

“Rus­sia should use its in­flu­ence to dis­en­gage the Rus­si­abacked sep­a­ratists,” Tusk said.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, mean­while, main­tained a lowkey ap­proach with a re­strained tone that may re­flect the start of a new U.S. ap­proach to the Rus­sia-Ukraine con­flict.


An el­derly woman is evac­u­ated from her home in the out­skirts of Donetsk that was re­peat­edly shelled, in Ukraine, Thurs­day.

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