News / Europe

    Fighting Puts E. Ukraine Truce in Jeopardy

    • Pro-Russian rebels sit in their car with a heavy machine gun in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Sept. 7, 2014.
    • A man walks past a house damaged by recent shelling on the outskirts of the southern coastal town of Mariupol, Ukraine, Sept. 7, 2014.
    • Homes burn after being hit by a shell in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Sept. 7, 2014.
    • A local woman puts out the fire at her burning house after shelling in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Sept. 7, 2014.
    • A local woman sits and cries in front of her burning house after shelling in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Sept. 7, 2014.
    • A man looks at a destroyed Ukrainian army tank near the village of Lebedynske, on the highway joining Mariupol and Novoazovsk, Ukraine, Sept. 6, 2014.
    • A Ukrainian soldier looks at a truck burned by recent shelling on the outskirts of the southern coastal town of Mariupol, Ukraine, Sept. 7, 2014.
    • Canned cucumbers and heavy machine gun ammunition are seen in a Pro-Russian rebel's car in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Sept. 7, 2014.
    VOA News

    Clashes erupted in eastern Ukraine Sunday, throwing into question a cease-fire agreement signed Friday by the rebels and Kyiv government.

    At least two houses were on fire in Spartak, a rural village just north of Donetsk and adjacent to the airport.  The homes were reportedly hit by fire as both rebels and the Kyiv government accused the other of breaching the cease-fire.

    Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council earlier Sunday said rebels in Donetsk appeared to have tried to attack the airport, which government forces have held since May.

    Also, renewed shelling overnight in the port city of Mariupol is said to have killed a woman and injured three other people.  If confirmed, the woman would be the first civilian killed since a truce was declared.

    The latest cease-fire was negotiated at talks in Belarus on Friday.

    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he spoke Saturday with Russian President Vladimir Putin by telephone and the two agreed the truce was generally being honored at that time.  Ukraine and NATO accuse Moscow of providing direct help to separatists, including by means of sending troops and military hardware. Russia denies the charges even though rebel leaders say they have been helped by Russian soldiers who have used their vacation time to battle Ukrainian troops on Ukrainian soil.

    Arms to Ukraine

    A senior aide to Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko said on Sunday that Kyiv had reached agreement during the NATO summit in Wales on the provision of weapons and military advisers from five member states of the alliance.

    However, four of the five swiftly denied making any such pledge.

    Yuri Lutsenko posted remarks on his Facebook page. He gave no further details and it was not immediately possible to confirm his statement, Reuters reported. Poroshenko, whose armed forces are battling pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, attended the two-day summit in Wales that ended on Friday.

    “At the NATO summit agreements were reached on the provision of military advisers and supplies of modern armaments from the United States, France, Italy, Poland and Norway,” Poroshenko aide Yuri Lutsenko said on his Facebook page.

    Lutsenko gave no further details. He may have made his comment for domestic political reasons to highlight the degree of NATO commitment to Ukraine and to its pro-Western president.

    NATO officials have said the alliance will not send weapons to Ukraine, which is not a member state, but they have also said individual allies may choose to do so.

    A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, denied that the United States had made such a pledge. The official told Reuters, "No U.S. offer of lethal assistance has been made to Ukraine."

    Asked about Lutsenko's comments, defense ministry officials in Italy, Poland and Norway also denied plans to provide arms.

    In France, an aide at the Elysee palace declined to comment.

    Russia is fiercely opposed to closer ties between Ukraine and the NATO alliance.

    NATO did announce plans to boost its military presence in Eastern Europe and put tougher a new rapid reaction force in direct response to the situation in Ukraine.

    Belarus negotiations

    The current cease-fire in Ukraine was approved at talks in Belarus by envoys from the Kyiv government, the separatist movement, Moscow and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

    The truce was to include a withdrawal of all heavy weapons from eastern Ukraine, an exchange of all captured soldiers and rebels, and more autonomy for the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, swaths of which are controlled by the separatists.

    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin by telephone Saturday and the two agreed that the truce was generally being honored at that time.

    The cease-fire had appeared to be holding for much of the day on Saturday, but shelling started late at night. 

    Ukraine and NATO accuse Moscow of providing direct help to separatists, a claim Russia has repeatedly denied.

    U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, speaking Sunday in Georgia, characterized Putin's recent actions as "dangerous and irresponsible."

    Amnesty International said Sunday the situation on the ground in Ukraine remains "fraught with danger," and called on all parties to "stop violations of the laws of war."

    Amnesty Secretary-General Salil Shetty said, "All sides in this conflict have shown disregard for civilian lives and are blatantly violating their international obligations."

    Amnesty also accused both the rebels and Ukrainian militia of war crimes, and it published satellite images it said showed a build-up of Russian armor and artillery in eastern Ukraine.

    “Our evidence shows that Russia is fuelling the conflict, both through direct interference and by supporting the separatists in the east. Russia must stop the steady flow of weapons and other support to an insurgent force heavily implicated in gross human rights violations,” Shetty said in a statement.

    Moscow denies dispatching forces or arming the rebels despite what NATO says is overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

    Possible new sanctions

    As regional tensions continued to simmer Saturday, Russia — accused by the West of supporting the rebellion — vowed to retaliate if the European Union imposes a new round of economic sanctions next week.

    The new sanctions were given preliminary approval Friday night and could be implemented as early as Monday. The Associated Press, citing an unnamed EU diplomat, said the new measures would target Russia's access to capital markets and trade in arms and defense technology, dual-use goods and sensitive technologies.

    "There will undoubtedly be a reaction from our side" if additional sanctions are taken, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, without specifying what the reaction might be.

    But Western governments have in recent weeks imposed several rounds of economic penalties on Moscow for its widely perceived role in the rebellion, and Moscow has retaliated with sanctions of its own.

    The EU "would do better to work on supporting the economic revival" of eastern Ukraine, the ministry said.

    Also Saturday, NATO forces launched a major military training exercise 250 kilometers from the Russian border, in what is being described as a practical demonstration of support for Baltic states facing an assertive Russia.

    The maneuvers, which are set to end Monday, near the Latvian capital, Riga, involved aircraft, vehicles and about 500 U.S., Canadian and Italian paratroopers in a joint exercise at an airbase southeast of the city.

    VOA's Henry Ridgewell contributed to this report from London. Some material for this report comes from Reuters, AFP and AP.

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    Comments page of 3
        Next 
    by: Lawrence Bush from: Houston, USA
    September 08, 2014 3:34 AM
    IS IT A CEASE-FIRE OR A FARCE BETWEEN THE KYIV ADMINISTRATION AND THE SEPARATISTS? MOSCOW GAMBLE STILL CONTINUES.

    by: Mr nobody from: usa
    September 08, 2014 1:03 AM
    "Russia denies the charges even though rebel leaders say they have been helped by Russian soldiers who have used their vacation time to battle Ukrainian troops on Ukrainian soil."

    This the Russian truth. They are on "vacation" a Rusian vacation.

    The word vacation has a different meaning in Russian than English. The Russian is supposed to work himself to death for the state, taking time off to visit any place besides proud local Russian monuments and museums in unpatriotic.

    The only people allowed exit visas for travel outside of the Soviet Union was historically limited to spies and operatives. People regularly made up reasons to spy abroad to get out for foreign travel. Only the most loyal of party advocates were let out, and under strict pre travel and post travel briefing.

    These "spy/tourists" were not the most ambitious spies, and often made up stories to justify their exploits.

    Foreigners on travel were considered Bourgeois, and offensive. Or spies themselves.They probably caught 900% of the foreign spies. There is even a movie about it "Diamond arm".

    So in a bizzare twist of honest, they really are on vacation. A Russian vacation.

    So how many days do they get of "vacation" before they are considered AWOL?

    Who buys their ticket on the bus? Train? Armored car?

    When do they write home?

    Where do they die?

    How do they die?

    How are they debriefed?

    Who feeds them?

    Where did their weapons come from?

    Do they report back to their commanding officer?

    Who do they vacation with?

    Did they report any foreign travel?

    Did they meet any foreigners ?

    Did they take an oath to any foreign power?

    Have they killed?

    Did anybody man a BUK launcher?

    Did anybody shoot down an airliner while on vacation?

    Vacation, such a pleasant word, what does it translate into in Russian?


    by: Igor from: Russia
    September 07, 2014 11:51 PM
    Russia is much more sincere than any other Western nations in pursuing peaceful solutions for Ukraine because Russia and Ukraine are brothers in history. Another reason is that Russian speaking people in Ukraine are suffering from the conflict. Western nations are of different blood. So they will try to instigate fighting in East Ukraine to kill off or displace millions of Russian Speakers out of their land in East Ukraine to creat a pure pro-western state of Ukraine and turn that state into Russian enermy. Look at what the West have done to Iraq, Lybia, Afganistan, Iran, Palestine, Syria, Egypt....You will find the answer to Ukraine's future. Some of Eastern European countries which join NATO have become the shields of the richest nations (USA, UK, France, Germany, Holand...) against Russia. Those pioneering dogs will be under direct attacks from Russia if there is any war while the richest will suffer much less. Farer to the East Nato goes, Much safer are the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy...

    by: anonym from: moldova
    September 07, 2014 7:02 PM
    Russia stands for peace in the Ukraine ... I think just in the Ukraine's oligarchs want to earn extra money for war

    by: Anonymous
    September 07, 2014 5:02 PM
    The west needs to go in to Ukraine for the Ukraine Government to protect the land of the Ukrainians, and keep the peace. Hold those accountable for violence. Any outsiders from Russia deserve a serious smack on the hand. If Putin is involved in this aggression, then he should be arrested by the criminal courts.

    by: Rohan from: London
    September 07, 2014 4:21 PM
    Unfortunately, the only thing that will give Putin pause at this point is a 1962 -style stand off and the West does not have the guts for that.
    It could mean the end of everything but at what point do you just give up and let the bully win? Obama should show proper leadership like Kennedy did and say enough is enough....... or is he afraid of assassination and the lack of his post-presidential benefits?! Why oh why do we not learn the lessons of history.
    Peace in our Time.......pffffffffffft

    by: Allah from: usa
    September 07, 2014 4:14 PM
    They should fight Islamic State terrorists instead of fighting each other

    by: Johan from: California
    September 07, 2014 3:50 PM
    Putin is out of his mind. I don't think he is sober these days at all! Somehow Russians believe that the expansion of territories will solve all the problems (and there are too many of them in present Russia). The West needs stronger leadership today, otherwise we are risking to have another Nazi Germany of 1930's.
    I totally agree with thecrude, if you cannot see the new WW, you are blind.

    by: Goldingen from: Mittawa
    September 07, 2014 10:11 AM
    NATO will not send weapons to Ukraine, however individual allies may send arms to Ukraine.
    In case the aggressor in revenge attacks these individual countries individual soldiers may defend them.

    by: Vaser from: Germany
    September 07, 2014 6:29 AM
    We must stop buying Russia's gas and oil!!!
    Comments page of 3
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