Fight­ing in eastern Ukraine goes on overnight amid talks

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY INNA VARENYTSIA

Fight­ing raged overnight and in the early hours on Tues­day on the out­skirts of the rebel strong­hold of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine de­spite an agree­ment reached by the Ukrainian and Rus­sian for­eign min­is­ters a day ear­lier.

The year­long mil­i­tary con­flict be­tween Rus­sian-backed rebels and gov­ern­ment forces has claimed more than 6,000 lives and left large parts of Ukraine’s once industrial heart­land in ru­ins.

Fight­ing in the east had largely sub­sided fol­low­ing a cease-fire deal signed in Fe­bru­ary but has rekin­dled in re­cent days.

Heavy shelling was heard in Donetsk late Mon­day evening and in the early hours on Tues­day. Ukrainian mil­i­tary spokesman An­driy Ly­senko told a tele­vised brief­ing that six troops were killed and 12 wounded in a 24-hour pe­riod, while rebels re­ported one fighter dead and five wounded in the overnight clashes.

The death toll is the high­est since the Fe­bru­ary cease-fire was signed.

Ly­senko also re­ported civil­ian ca­su­al­ties, in­clud­ing two teenagers who were wounded in shelling in the Hor­livka area, north of Donetsk.

Rus­sia and Ukraine agreed in Ber­lin on Mon­day to call for the pull­back of smaller-cal­iber weapons from the front lines of the con­flict that has claimed more than 6,000 lives.

On the ground, how­ever, even the pre­vi­ous agree­ment that called for a cease-fire and a with­drawal of large-cal­iber weaponry ap­peared to be shaky.

The U.S. State Depart­ment sup­ports the steps taken in Ber­lin, spokes­woman Marie Harf said Tues­day, but she also voiced con­cern about the on­go­ing fight­ing.

“The Rus­sian-backed sep­a­ratists con­tinue to take ag­gres­sive ac­tion in Ukraine,” she said. “And the Rus­sian-backed sep­a­ratists con­tinue to stall Minsk im­ple­men­ta­tion.”

A Rus­sian jour­nal­ist was in­jured Tues­day morn­ing when he stepped on a land mine in Shy­rokyne dur­ing a visit to the vil­lage on the Azov Sea that has been the epi­cen­ter of re­cent fight­ing. An­drei Lunev, a video­jour­nal­ist who works for the Zvezda tele­vi­sion sta­tion, re­ceived first aid at the scene and was then whisked away to the near­est hos­pi­tal. At one point dur­ing the visit the group had to lie on the ground be­cause of an ex­change of fire nearby.

Shy­rokyne has changed hands re­peat­edly through­out the con­flict.

An As­so­ci­ated Press re­porter saw a col­umn of at least 10 in­fantry com­bat ve­hi­cles mov­ing Tues­day morn­ing from the rebel-oc­cu­pied area by the Azov Sea to Donetsk.

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