Tuesday 21 November 2017

At least 10 die in upsurge of violence in east Ukraine

A miner is helped by a member of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic emergencies ministry Picture: Reuters
A miner is helped by a member of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic emergencies ministry Picture: Reuters

Jonathan Gray

A surge in fighting between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine has killed more than 10 people and injured dozens more since the weekend.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko cut short a visit to Germany because of the fighting, the first significant violence in the war zone since Donald Trump was inaugurated as US president, and which could be seen as a key test of the new administration's stance on the crisis.

Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic have blamed one another for sparking a frenzy of shelling by heavy artillery and multiple rocket launchers at flash points up and down the line of contact, including near Donetsk and the Azov-sea port of Mariupol.

The worst violence has been seen near Avdiivka, an industrial town north of Donetsk, where at least four Ukrainian soldiers were killed on Monday. Three more soldiers were killed and 23 injured in overnight shelling in the same area, Oleksandr Turchynov, chairman of the Ukrainian Security and Defence Council, said yesterday.

Donetsk News Agency, an outlet run by the separatist authorities, said four fighters died and seven were injured overnight, as well as three civilians. One civilian was killed, the separatist authorities said.

Eduard Basurin, a military spokesman for the separatists, said 207 miners were trapped underground after Ukrainian shelling knocked out an electricity substation. The miners trapped in the Zasyadko mine in Donetsk, which has a notorious safety record, had been brought to the surface by yesterday afternoon.

Ukrainian officials said separatist artillery hit central Avdiivka, damaging several civilian homes and also part of the town's vast coking plant.

The factory's director said the plant may have to suspend production if the level of violence continues.

Pavlo Zhebrivsky, governor of the Ukrainian-controlled part of Donetsk region, said he would evacuate the roughly 12,000 civilians from Avdiivka.

Both sides accused one another of attempting to break through front line positions that have generally been fixed since a peace agreement was signed in February 2015.

Pavlo Klimkin, the Ukrainian foreign minister, said "massive attacks by Russian occupying forces across the contact line" had prevented him and Anders Samuelsen, the Danish foreign minister, from visiting the front line near Mariupol.

Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, accused the Ukrainian government of provoking the crisis. The Kremlin has "reliable information" Ukrainian volunteer battalions crossed the front line on Monday and tried to capture rebel territory, he said.

Irish Independent

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