Home / News / World /  Ukraine battles rebels in Luhansk as Russia, Germany call for talks

Moscow/Kiev: Ukrainian forces staged air strikes on rebel artillery and battled insurgents in the Luhansk city limits as the leaders of Russia and Germany said the situation in the former Soviet republic is deteriorating.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a resumption of talks during a meeting in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday. International representatives should speak as soon as possible and work toward a ceasefire, said Dmitry Peskov, the Russian leader’s spokesman.

Fighting between Ukrainian government forces and separatists has intensified since President Petro Poroshenko called off a ceasefire on 1 July. Tensions also rose after the foreign ministry in Moscow condemned what it said was a Ukrainian army shell that killed one person across the border in Russia’s Rostov region. While Ukraine said it didn’t fire on its neighbour’s territory, Peskov said media reports that Russia was planning strikes in Ukraine were nonsense.

Both leaders agreed that, unfortunately, the situation in Ukraine is degrading, Peskov told reporters after Putin and Merkel met on Sunday.

Frontier controls

US President Barack Obama and UK Prime Minister David Cameron also agreed on Sunday that Russia needs to act immediately to de-escalate the situation, according to a White House transcription of a phone call between the two men.

Russia needs to enforce a ceasefire and halt the flow of weapons and fighters across Ukraine’s border, among other measures, Obama and Cameron said.

So far, neither the US nor the UK have seen progress on complying with these conditions, the White House said in the statement. “The countries should take further coordinated measures to impose costs on Russia if it does not take immediate steps toward de-escalation."

Germany’s government also pressed for border controls and said that and an exchange of prisoners were prerequisites for a ceasefire, according to an emailed statement.

A convoy of about 100 armoured vehicles was tracked entering Ukraine from Russia, while seven government servicemen were killed and 30 wounded in the past 24 hours, Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the defense ministry in Kiev, told reporters on Sunday.

Fighting rages

Government troops conducted five air strikes against rebel bases and transport, Lysenko said, including on positions blockading Ukrainian troops at the air field in Luhansk, a city of about 450,000 people in Ukraine’s easternmost region bordering Russia. The army also traded fire with insurgents inside Luhansk’s city limits, with shells hitting a school and houses, newswire reported.

The enemy had great losses in manpower and equipment, Ukraine’s defense ministry said in a statement.

The European Union (EU) should give a proper assessment of illegal border crossings by military vehicles, and Ukraine should be put on the agenda of a 16 July meeting of the Council of Europe, Poroshenko said on his website on Sunday after speaking with EU President Herman Van Rompuy by phone. He demanded that all prisoners being held in Russia be released.

The yield on Ukraine’s April 2023 dollar bonds rose five basis points, or 0.05 percentage point, to 8.36% at 9.49am in Kiev. Last week, the bonds closed at their highest since June 2013 after Standard and Poor’s raised the outlook on the country’s credit rating to stable from negative, citing a $17 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). It kept Ukraine’s “CCC" ranking, eight levels below investment grade.

Russia’s Micex Index fell 0.2% to 1,496.92 and the ruble was down 0.2% against the central bank’s target euro-dollar basket.

July summit

The EU named 11 more people two days ago that it’s sanctioning for supporting the insurrection, including leaders of the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk republics. The 28-nation bloc has blacklisted 72 people and two companies connected with the destabilization of Ukraine and Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March.

The EU’s first opportunity to consider wider penalties on Russian industry, investment or trade will be at the 16 July summit. Objections by countries such as Italy, Austria, Slovakia, France and Greece have frustrated moves toward broader sanctions, which require unanimity.

The crisis has forced tens of thousands of Ukrainians from their home, according to the United Nations. Russia has received 30,495 requests for refugee status or temporary asylum from Ukrainians, Interfax news agency reported on Monday, citing Russian Federal Migration Service chief Konstantin Romodanovsky.

Ukraine expects the Russian authorities to undertake an objective assessment of the causes of fatal shelling in Rostov, the foreign ministry said in a statement. Government troops did not and will not open fire on a neighbouring state and residential areas, it said. Authorities in Kiev have blamed cross-border shelling on the insurgents, who they say are trying to discredit Ukrainian troops and draw Russia deeper into the conflict.

“The Rostov incident is an escalation of the danger to our citizens on our own territory," Russian deputy foreign minister Grigory Karasin told state television. “Clearly, this won’t go unanswered." Bloomberg

With assistance from Gaspard Sebag in Brussels, Stephen Bierman in Moscow, Patrick Donahue in Berlin and Kateryna Choursina and Daryna Krasnolutska in Kiev.

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