Ukraine Skirmishes Disrupt Ceasefire Deal

Reports of shelling in Ukraine’s eastern city of Mariupol have disrupted a day-old ceasefire as Moscow warns it “will react” if the EU imposes new sanctions over the crisis.

Sky News’ Moscow Correspondent Katie Stallard, in Mariupol, has reported a series of explosions in the eastern outskirts of the city, around a Ukrainian army checkpoint.

“They are not as loud as what we were hearing 48 hours ago, but they have been fairly steady,” she said.

“This does not necessarily mean the end of the ceasefire. It is not unusual for there to be skirmishes during a ceasefire – the test is going to be whether this turns into anything more overnight.”

The Russian-backed truce has largely been holding since it came into force on Friday at 4pm UK time, although there have been sporadicreports of skirmishes from both sides.

“The ceasefire’s terms are not being observed,” Vladimir Makovich, a leading member of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, told news agencyAFP.

He said Ukrainian forces had fired missiles at rebel positions on the outskirts of the rebel stronghold of Donetsk just hours after the truce came into effect.

Meanwhile a spokesman for Kiev’sNational Security and Defence Council, Andriy Lysneko, said the military had evidence of a “series of provocations by the rebels.”

The latest reports underline the fragility of the truce, which was designed to bring an end to more than five months of fighting.

Many on the ground have expressed scepticismregarding its durability, with both sides no closer to agreeing a long-term political solution to a conflict which has left some 2,600 people dead.

Ukraine’s Petro Poroshenko said he had spoken to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putinby phone earlier on Saturday to discuss ways to make the ceasefire agreement more durable.

The West and Kiev accuse Moscow of supporting the rebels by sending tanks and troops over the border, although the Kremlin has consistently denied the allegations.

MrPoroshenko’s office said in a statement: “The two heads of state stated that overall the ceasefire was being implemented and discussed steps to achieve a permanent ceasefire.

“They also stressed the need for the maximum involvement of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in monitoring the situation.”

Russia issued a separate statement on Saturday warning European leaders of an unspecified “reaction” if the European Union follows through with its decision to impose further sanctions.

The additional measures were agreed as world leaders met for a two-dayNato summit in Wales.

Prime Minister David Cameron has indicated they could be suspended if Russia withdraws its troops from Ukraine and the ceasefire is observed.

The ceasefire includes an agreement on the release of prisoners on both sides, the delivery of humanitarian aid and the withdrawal of heavy weapons.

Mr Poroshenko said Kiev was also ready to grant a significant decentralisation of power and economic freedom to the restive eastern region.

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6 September 2014 | 9:53 pm – Source: orange.co.uk

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