Ukraine forces, sep­a­ratists clash in in­ten­si­fied bat­tles

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Carol J. Wil­liams carol.wil­liams@la­times.com

Pro-Rus­sia sep­a­ratists and Ukrainian govern­ment forces fought their most in­tense bat­tles in months on Wed­nes­day af­ter both sides were re­ported last week to have looted the in­ter­na­tion­ally mon­i­tored de­pots where their heavy ar­tillery had been stored.

The rebels hold­ing two large re­gions of east­ern Ukraine lost 15 fight­ers in the bat­tle for gov­ern­ment­con­trolled Maryinka, sep­a­ratist mili­tia spokesman Ed­uard Ba­surin was quoted as say­ing by Rus­sia’s Tass news agency.

Ukrainian forces suc­ceeded in main­tain­ing con­trol of Maryinka af­ter the 12hour bat­tle, Col. An­driy Ly­senko of the Na­tional Se­curi- ty and De­fense Coun­cil told jour­nal­ists in Kiev, the cap­i­tal. He blamed the Moscow­backed rebels for the at­tack.

Another govern­ment mil­i­tary spokesman, Olek­sandr Poro­niuk of the Anti-Ter­ror­ist Op­er­a­tion press cen­ter, said Maryinka was still ablaze when fight­ing sub­sided Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon.

The in­tense ar­tillery ex­changes knocked out elec­tric­ity in the re­gion, trap­ping more than 900 un­der­ground in two Donetsk mines, Ba­surin told re­porters in Donetsk. Evac­u­a­tions were un­der­way, he said.

Fight­ing also broke out along other ar­eas of the front lines that had been mostly quiet since a Feb. 12 peace plan was bro­kered in Be­larus’ cap­i­tal, Minsk. A cease­fire took ef­fect three days later, although it has been vi­o­lated al­most daily, and the two sides par­tially com­plied with a mid-March timetable for sur­ren­der­ing their tanks, heavy guns and rocket launch­ers to de­pots that were sup­posed to be mon­i­tored by the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Se­cu­rity and Co­op­er­a­tion in Europe.

But the OSCE mon­i­tor­ing mis­sion’s Satur­day report noted that a team had been de­nied ac­cess to two of the five sep­a­ratist weapons caches and the in­spec­tors found dozens of heavy weapons miss­ing from two oth­ers and the fifth emp­tied.

The mon­i­tors also re­ported be­ing de­layed in their at­tempts to in­spect three govern­ment-held weapons stor­age fa­cil­i­ties and later find­ing weapons miss­ing.

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