Ukraine forces, separatists clash in intensified battles
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.