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‘We must hold on for 24 hours without a single artillery shot being fired,’ President Petro Poroshenko said on Saturday. Photo: AFP
‘We must hold on for 24 hours without a single artillery shot being fired,’ President Petro Poroshenko said on Saturday. Photo: AFP

Ukrainian shelling dents Poroshenko optimism on weapons pullback

Two soldiers died and six were wounded in the last 24 hours as rebels continue to break a month-long ceasefire, said an official

Minsk, Belarus: Shelling in Ukraine’s war-torn east damped optimism from President Petro Poroshenko that a sustained pause in hostilities between the military and pro-Russian separatists would trigger a pull-back of heavy weaponry.

Two soldiers died and six were wounded in the last 24 hours as rebels continue to break a month-long ceasefire, military spokesman Volodymyr Polovyi told reporters on Sunday in Kiev. One civilian was killed in Donetsk, according to the city council, which said on Sunday in a website statement that fighting could be heard through the night.

“We must hold on for 24 hours without a single artillery shot being fired," Poroshenko said on Saturday, the Interfax news service reported. He said he’s “guardedly optimistic" that this will happen on Sunday or Monday.

While a ceasefire signed on 5 September has eased the bloodshed in Ukraine’s easternmost regions, violence has continued on a smaller scale. The conflict has killed at least 3,627 people and wounded 8,446, the United Nations estimates. Russia denies US, European and Ukrainian allegations that it’s supplying arms to the rebels and has deployed troops, tanks and artillery in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Airport raids

At least 18 people, including rebels, Ukrainian soldiers and civilians were killed on Saturday as separatists focused their attacks on the Donetsk airport. Twelve rebels died during repeated attempts to storm the airport, military spokesman Andriy Lysenko told reporters on Saturaday. Two Ukrainian soldiers were also killed, he said.

At least 12 people, including a soldier, two policemen and nine civilians, have been wounded in fighting in the Luhansk region since Saturday, regional governor Hennadiy Moskal said on Sunday on his website.

An international commission representing Ukraine, Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) started work in the port of Mariupol on Saturday. Its main task is to set up the boundaries of a 30km-wide demilitarized area, according to Lysenko, who said fighting stopped monitors from beginning work elsewhere in the area.

The buffer zone, which will span 320km from Russia’s eastern border to the town of Novoazovsk on the Azov Sea, should also include the Donetsk airport and other locations still subject to fighting, Andrei Kelin, Russia’s permanent representative to the OSCE, told Rossiya 24 TV on 3 October. The exact borders of the buffer zone are being determined, while its implementation should include a pullback of heavy artillery and patrolling of the area, Kelin said.

German convoy

The fighting has cut off power and water supplies to many residents of eastern Ukraine. A German humanitarian aid convoy of 100 trucks is heading to the nation and should reach it next week, Der Spiegel reported on Saturday on its website. Russia has sent aid convoys in the past, though without Ukraine’s consent.

Germany has advocated keeping sanctions on Russia. A European Union (EU) envoy said Russia may face further measures should separatists seize more land in the battle-torn region.

“The EU wants sanctions to be lifted; however, I do not exclude that if things deteriorate significantly, the EU might be forced to come back and consider sanctions," Vygaudas Usackas, the EU’s ambassador in Moscow, said in an interview on 3 October. “We have not reached the end of the possible measures."

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who said he supports the peace efforts, has shrugged off US and EU penalties as “idiocy" that harm the global economy and won’t sway his policies. The restrictions have driven Russia’s slowing economy to the brink of a recession.

A week after the ceasefire started, the 28-member EU stiffened punishment against Russia in a coordinated move with the US and has since decided to leave the measures in place. A further review is scheduled toward the end of this month after EU foreign ministers meet on 20 October. Its outcome will depend on the implementation of the truce, according to Usackas. Bloomberg

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