Fighting Kills Five In Ukraine’s Separatist East

Supporters of former Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili, angered at his detention, clash with police during a rally outside a detention centre in Kiev late on December 8, 2017. Ukrainian police rearrested Saakashvili after a similar attempt to detain the foe of President Petro Poroshenko had failed. Sergei CHUZAVKOV / AFP

The latest spike of fighting between Ukraine’s army and Russian-backed rebels has killed five people, in the heaviest daily toll over the past weeks of the simmering conflict, officials said Saturday.

The Ukrainian military reported the death of four soldiers in clashes in the area north of the insurgents’ de facto capital of Donetsk, while a separatist news agency said one rebel fighter had been killed.

“The situation in the anti-terrorist operation zone has deteriorated,” the Ukrainian army said in a statement, referring to the conflict in two breakaway provinces in the country’s industrial east.

Another two soldiers were wounded in mortar fire, it said, accusing rebels of using heavy weapons banned by ceasefire agreements.

A series of periodic truce deals have helped lower the level of violence but not fully end bloodshed in the European Union’s backyard.

The war in the former Soviet republic broke out in April 2014 and has claimed more than 10,000 lives.

Europe’s only active conflict has plunged relations between Moscow and the West to a post-Cold War nadir and unsettled other Russian neighbours.

Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Russia of funnelling troops and arms across the border to fan the flames of the conflict.

Moscow has denied the allegations despite overwhelming evidence that it has been involved in the fighting and its explicit political support for the rebels.

AFP

Putin Announces Ceasefire Deal With Ukraine

Ukraine Presidentukraine, Vladimir Putin, has announced ceasefire after meeting all night in Belarus with leaders of Russia, France and Germany, to secure a peace deal. The leaders of Russia and Ukraine have announced that ceasefire will begin in Eastern Ukraine on 15 February.

After marathon talks with leaders of Ukraine, France and Germany, Russia President, Vladimir Putin said “We have managed to agree on the main issues.”

French President, Francois Hollande also said it was a “serious deal” but not everything had been agreed.

The meeting in Belarus – which began on Wednesday – was focused on securing a ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weapons and creating a demilitarized zone in Eastern Ukraine.

Before the meeting started, the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had said that achieving a ceasefire was significant. Thousands of people have been killed and indisposed in the fighting.

Russia has been accused of arming and reinforcing pro-Russian rebels in east Ukraine, a claim That was denied.  The talks are set to focus on securing a ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weapons and creating a demilitarized zone.

The Ukrainian and Russian presidents barely looked at each other when they were forced to shake hands. At a family photo of the leaders, not a single person was smiling. There was even an image of Vladimir Putin inside the negotiations snapping a pencil in two.

Heavy shelling was reported in the rebel-held city of Luhansk; by a freelance reporter, Pierre Sautreuil, (in French) that a rebel military base seemed to be the target of one bombardment in the south-east of the city.

Mr Poroshenko had earlier said that the situation threatened to spin “out of control” if the parties did not agree to ceasefire.

The Ukrainian warned that his government was prepared to impose martial law, adding that the Minsk summit was one of the final chances to bring about an unconditional ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy weapons.

US President Barack Obama has refused to rule out supplying “lethal defensive weapons” to Kiev if diplomacy fails, but Russia says that would worsen the crisis.