Ukraine says pro-Russia rebels violating latest truce

3rd December 2014, Comments 0 comments

Ukraine's military on Wednesday accused pro-Russian fighters of violating a truce at a key airport battlefield in rebel-held Donetsk just hours after it was agreed.

The sound of artillery shelling echoed across the war zone's largest city the morning after both sides agreed to halt fire at the site of the deadliest and most unrelenting fighting in the eight month conflict.

An AFP reporter heard several Grad missiles that appeared to have been fired from rebel-held positions just before noon local time.

"We heard the shelling but we are not afraid -- we are used to it by now," said a 54-year-old resident who would only give his first name, Oleksandr.

Ukraine's top military spokesman said the rebels held fire throughout the truce negotiations before resuming their attacks.

"Unfortunately, the ceasefire is not being respected," Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council spokesman Andriy Lysenko told AFP.

"Attacks on the airport and Ukrainian positions have resumed."

Local authorities reported no immediate casualties because the disputed area is not open to access by medics or local security personnel.

Rebel fighters themselves denied organising any coordinated attack on the airport complex on the northern outskirts of eastern Ukraine's coal mining capital.

"Our side respected the ceasefire," a local commander, who would not identify himself, told AFP.

The airport truce was meant to take effect late Tuesday after a round of negotiations between the visiting deputy head of Russia's ground forces and a senior Ukrainian general.

Donetsk rebel leaders signed up to the agreement at a separate meeting.

Another ceasefire for the entire neighbouring pro-Russian region of Lugansk is due to go into effect on Friday.

The two deals were meant to reinforce a comprehensive ceasefire signed by all sides on September 5 that called for a 30-kilometre (18-mile) buffer zone and granted limited self-rule to the separatists.

But hostilities only intensified after the two rebel regions held their own leadership polls on November 2 that were denounced by both Kiev and the West.

Pro-Russian militias have been attacking the Donetsk airport -- once the busiest and most modern in eastern Ukraine -- since May, but Ukrainian troops have held on to the core of the facility.

However, the structure and its landing strip have been devastated by constant shelling, rendering the airport useless without a major overhaul.

Truce agreements have been broken on repeated occasions with both rebel and government forces unable to control hardline fighters who reject the compromises of their leaders.

More than 4,300 people have been killed in fighting and 930,000 have been displaced since mid-April, according to UN estimates.

© 2014 AFP

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