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Poroshenko Says Rebel Shelling Persists in Ukraine


Ukrainian servicemen walk past armored personnel carriers, military vehicles and cannons at their new position as they pull back from the Horlivka region, near Druzhkivka, eastern Ukraine, Feb. 28, 2015.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Saturday that Russian-backed separatists were continuing to shell locations in Ukraine, violating last month's cease-fire.

Poroshenko made the accusation in a telephone call with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. He said shells had been fired near the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk, as well as the city of Mariupol, which is still under Ukrainian government control but is under threat. He said Ukrainian troops had been wounded.

Ukraine's Segodnya newspaper reported that shelling near Donetsk killed one of its photographers Saturday. Serhiy Nikolayev died after getting caught in crossfire in the village of Pisky.

Ukraine's military reported its first deaths in three days on Friday. A Ukrainian military spokesman said three government soldiers were killed and seven were wounded in clashes with separatists in the east.

Ukraine then said, prior to Saturday's reported shelling, that violence had decreased.

The cease-fire stipulates that both sides are to stop the shelling and pull back their heavy weapons, tanks and other military vehicles from the front lines.

Reports out of Ukraine said separatists were continuing to carry out the withdrawal. But monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have not been able to confirm them.

Poroshenko had said Friday that his military would return its heavy weapons to the front lines in eastern Ukraine if unrest continued, and that Ukraine was "ready at any moment to stand up to the enemy."

Also Friday, in a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Poroshenko voiced support for a European Union peacekeeping mission in Ukraine. He said a military threat from the east — an apparent reference to Russia — would remain even if the truce held.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday that there had been progress in the withdrawal of heavy weapons in eastern Ukraine. He stressed the importance of fulfilling other aspects of the truce, including key humanitarian issues and constitutional reform in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.