Eight killed in fresh Ukraine clashes
Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels on Thursday reported the death of eight people in fresh clashes that erupted despite ongoing talks on a new truce agreement for the separatist east.
Government spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said seven Ukrainian servicemen had been killed and 13 injured in fighting that centred mostly around the pro-Russian republic of Donetsk.
“For the first time in several day, the enemy has resumed using artillery rockets,” Motuzyanyk told reporters in Kiev.
The military command of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic said a Ukrainian sniper had killed one woman and shelling left another 12 injured overnight.
An upsurge in fighting that broke out in mid-August and killed at least 20 people has raised renewed fears of full-scale warfare returning to the edge of the European Union’s unstable eastern front.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande — co-sponsors of an increasingly tattered six-month-old truce — reaffirmed their support for the deal during talks in Berlin on Monday with Ukraine’s Western-backed leader Petro Poroshenko.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is overseeing a separate set of talks between the warring sides and Russia that are meant to see all political conflicts resolved and the fighting halted by the end of the year.
The OSCE said after another round of low-level discussions in the Belarussian capital Minsk on Wednesday that the parties were ready to prepare a new temporary ceasefire that would be enforced around schools in the war zone once students returned to class on September 1.
The Minsk negotiators “find it essential that, once the school year begins, the fighting halts along the line of contact for the first week of classes,” the Interfax-Ukraine news agency quoted OSCE negotiator Martin Sajdik as saying.
Sajdik added the rebels and Kiev officials had agreed to exchange maps and other details that could help lead to a formal temporary truce announcement in coming days.
Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Russia of orchestrating and arming the uprising in revenge for Kiev’s decision last year to pull out of Moscow’s orbit and hitch its future to the European Union.
The United Nations estimates the conflict has killed more than 6,800 people since April 2014 and has driven at least 1.4 million from their homes.