Saturday 24 February 2018

Heavy shelling hits Ukraine town where rebels reject ceasefire

Reuters World Service

A government-held town in east Ukraine sandwiched between two rebel-controlled areas came under heavy shelling on Monday, a day after the start of a ceasefire that Russian-backed separatists say does not apply there.

A Kiev military source said four Ukrainian soldiers had been killed and 21 wounded since the internationally negotiated ceasefire came into force on Sunday.

A Reuters correspondent at Vuhlehirsk, about 10 km (6 miles) to the west of Debaltseve, a government-held railway junction town that has been the focus of most of the fighting in recent weeks, heard heavy shelling, with blasts around every 10 seconds.

Read more here: Both sides accused on Ukraine truce 

The ceasefire was negotiated at a summit of leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France in Belarus last week in an attempt to end 10 months of conflict in eastern Ukraine in which more than 5,000 people have been killed.

Although fighting generally ceased in the first minutes of Sunday after the ceasefire came into force, military spokesman Anatoly Stelmakh told reporters it had continued, or even escalated, around Debaltseve.

ECHOES OF WAR: Birds swarm in the sky as shelling between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian government forces takes place in a residential area of the town of Artemivsk, Ukraine last Friday. Photo: AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
ECHOES OF WAR: Birds swarm in the sky as shelling between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian government forces takes place in a residential area of the town of Artemivsk, Ukraine last Friday. Photo: AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko issues the order to start the ceasefire in the east (AP)
A damaged armoured vehicle on the road near the village of Luganske, Ukraine (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Ready for action: Ukrainian government troops on the road between the towns of Dabeltseve and Artemivsk
Map of Ukraine conflict
A Ukrainian armored vehicle drives on the road between the towns of Dabeltseve and Artemivsk. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Members of the Ukrainian armed forces ride on military vehicles near Artemivsk, eastern Ukraine

"The illegal armed groups are not supporting the ceasefire," he said, adding the rebels were using Grad rockets and tanks to attack government forces holding the town.

"The number of attacks on Debaltseve has even increased in comparison to previous days and they are using all types of weapons," Stelmakh said. "The terrorists have been given the order to take Debaltseve at all cost."

Read more here: Fighting eases with ceasefire in Ukraine 

In all, government positions had been fired on 112 times by rebels in the past 24 hours, with government forces firing only when they came under attack, Stelmakh said.

Reuters

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