EU's Mogherini calls for immediate truce in east Ukraine
EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini called Wednesday for an immediate truce in east Ukraine to allow civilians to escape an upsurge in fighting between government troops and Russian-backed rebels.
"The spiral of ever increasing violence in eastern Ukraine needs to stop," Mogherini said, adding her voice to an OSCE call for "all actors in and around the Debaltseve area to establish a local temporary truce for a minimum of three days, taking immediate effect."
"The fighting provoked by the continued separatist offensive, notably around Debaltseve, is causing great human suffering and undermines all efforts aimed at a political solution," she said in a statement.
In the past several weeks, rebel forces have made significant gains in the region, winning full control of Donetsk airport as the death toll in the conflict since April has steadily mounted to more than 5,350.
The rebels are now trying to take Debaltseve, a strategic railway hub between their strongholds of Donetsk and Lugansk, after they tore up a tenuous ceasefire deal agreed in September.
At least three people were killed Wednesday as shelling damaged a hospital in Donetsk, an AFP journalist reported.
Mogherini said "the shelling of civilians, wherever it happens, is a grave violation of international humanitarian law."
"Residents of Ukraine's Donbas strive to flee the region and the humanitarian crisis continues to worsen dramatically in the coldest period of the year," she said.
"Civilians need to be able to leave the conflict zone safely."
© 2015 AFP