Ukraine battle tests cease-fire to breaking point

Jun 3, 2015, 11:06 AM
People observe damage in their flat after shelling between Russia-backed separatists and Ukrainian ...
People observe damage in their flat after shelling between Russia-backed separatists and Ukrainian government troops in Donetsk, Eastern Ukraine Monday, June 1, 2015. In a new report released Monday, the U.N. human rights office said that the number of people killed in more than a year of fighting in the east has risen to more than 6,400 people. (AP Photo/Mstyslav Chernov)
(AP Photo/Mstyslav Chernov)

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — A major battle erupted Wednesday on the western edge of the main separatist rebel stronghold in eastern Ukraine, leaving more than a dozen dead and threatening to tip the country back into full-blown war.

Rebels in the city of Donetsk reported 15 dead between civilians and combatants in territory under their control.

The Ukrainian Interior Ministry said at least one person was killed in Marinka, the government-held town where fighting was centered. Ukrainian presidential adviser Yury Biryukov cited the General Staff as saying three Ukrainian soldiers died in combat and that another 30 were wounded.

Each side is blaming the other for sparking this round of unrest.

Ukraine’s General Staff said in a statement that rebels deployed around 1,000 fighters and dozens of tanks and self-propelled artillery systems in a major offensive that started before dawn.

The statement said the attack was a flagrant violation of a February cease-fire agreement.

The head of the separatist armed forces, Vladimir Kononov, said his fighters had engaged only in defense measures after an all-out assault by the Ukrainian army.

“At around 03:45 a.m., the Ukrainian side carried out a provocation by shelling our positions practically along our entire front,” Kononov said.

Kononov listed several positions far apart from one another along the 450-kilometer (280-mile) front.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk accused Russia of inciting the fighting. Ukraine and the West assert Moscow supplies rebels with manpower and powerful weapons. Russia rejects those claims as unfounded.

Yatsenyuk urged the leaders meeting at the G7 summit in Germany this weekend to condemn Russia.

“The international community must come up with a correct and appropriate response to Russian aggression,” Yatsenyuk said.

Ukrainian Security Services spokesman Markian Lubkivskyi said his agency had information four troops with Russian military intelligence agency GRU were killed in Marinka. Lubkivskyi did not explain how that information was acquired.

Implementation of the cease-fire sealed in Belarus in February has foundered amid a proliferation of low-intensity battles that have now been overshadowed by developments in Marinka.

Negotiators from the warring sides met for new talks in Belarus on Tuesday, but the session concluded without obvious progress. Another meeting is planned for the weekend.

Russia has said it is unnerved by the violence, which it is blaming on Ukraine.

“We here in Moscow are closely watching it and feel extreme concern about the provocative actions by the Ukrainian armed forces,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

The U.S. State Department said it was disturbed by the unrest and said any rebel attempts to seize Ukrainian territory would have costs for Russia, which it accuses of guiding the separatists.

“Russia bears direct responsibility for preventing these attacks and implementing a cease-fire,” said State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf.

Regular reports of casualties among government and separatist fighters have continued unabated since February, but deaths among noncombatants had almost ceased. That trend has been disrupted in recent days in an indication that the warring sides are again increasingly resorting to indiscriminate shelling.

The head of the government-controlled part of the Luhansk region, Hennadiy Moskal, said in a statement on his official website that an elderly couple died when their car was struck by a mortar Wednesday morning, 20 kilometers inside government-held territory.

Russia’s Interfax news agency cited a rebel representative as saying that one resident in the town of Yenakieve was killed near a waste treatment plant during a 20-minute barrage. Ukraine’s military denies it attacked Yenakieve.

An array of social media postings showed the aftermath of shelling Wednesday in locations deep within the rebel citadel of Donetsk.

The war has killed more than 6,400 people since April 2014.

The armistice signed in February requires both sides to pull back heavy weapons from the front line, but international observers vetting that process regularly note violations across the board.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said in its most recent status report that its monitors on Tuesday heard 126 explosions from their observation point inside Donetsk. The report did not specify if the blasts indicated incoming or outgoing fire.

The OSCE team also reported visiting the site of three artillery impacts in the city. One crater seen in rebel-held territory by the OSCE appeared to have been the result of a 122 mm shell. Weapons capable of firing ammunition that size were to be withdrawn from the front line under the terms of the cease-fire.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

World News

(Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images for BoF VOICES)...
Associated Press

Vivienne Westwood, influential fashion maverick, dies at 81

Vivienne Westwood, an influential fashion maverick who played a key role in the punk movement, died Thursday at 81.
1 month ago
FILE - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during his first Cabinet meeting flanked by his ...
Associated Press

Rishi Sunak: UK’s ex-Treasury chief gets his shot at PM job

LONDON (AP) — Rishi Sunak ran for Britain’s top job and lost. Then he got another shot — and the chance to say “I told you so.” The former U.K. Treasury chief was runner-up to Liz Truss in the contest to replace the scandal-plagued Boris Johnson as Conservative Party leader and prime minister. But Truss […]
3 months ago
Britain's Prime Minister Liz Truss addresses the media in Downing Street in London, Thursday, Oct. ...
Associated Press

Truss quits, but UK’s political and economic turmoil persist

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Liz Truss quit Thursday after a tumultuous and historically brief term marred by economic policies that roiled financial markets and a rebellion in her political party that obliterated her authority. After just 45 days in office, Truss became the third Conservative prime minister to be toppled in as many […]
4 months ago
People receive medical treatment at the scene of Russian shelling, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, Oct. 1...
Associated Press

Russia unleashes biggest attacks in Ukraine in months

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia retaliated Monday for an attack on a critical bridge by unleashing its most widespread strikes against Ukraine in months, a lethal barrage that smashed civilian targets, knocked out power and water, shattered buildings and killed at least 14 people. Ukraine’s Emergency Service said nearly 100 people were wounded in the […]
4 months ago
This illustration made available by Johns Hopkins APL and NASA depicts NASA's DART probe, upper rig...
Associated Press

NASA spacecraft smashes into asteroid for defense test

A NASA spacecraft rammed an asteroid at blistering speed Monday in an unprecedented dress rehearsal for the day a killer rock menaces Earth.
4 months ago
Associated Press

At least 9 killed as Iran protests over woman’s death spread

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Clashes between Iranian security forces and protesters angry over the death of a 22-year-old woman in police custody have killed at least nine people since the violence erupted over the weekend, according to a tally Thursday by The Associated Press. The scope of Iran’s ongoing unrest, the worst in […]
5 months ago

Sponsored Articles

(Pexels Photo)...

Sports gambling can be fun for adults, but it’s a dangerous game for children

While adults may find that sports gambling is a way to enhance the experience with more than just fandom on the line, it can be a dangerous proposition if children get involved in the activity.
...
Fiesta Bowl Foundation

Celebrate 50 years of Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade magic!

Since its first production in the early 1970s, the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe has been a staple of Valley traditions, bringing family fun and excitement to downtown Phoenix.
...
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
Ukraine battle tests cease-fire to breaking point