The European Union has warned that the Minsk 2 ceasefire agreement between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian rebels in February is being violated, as fierce fighting rages on in the country’s east.
According to a statement released by the EU's External Action Service on Tuesday, heavy fighting in several government-controlled areas of Starohnativka - 50 kilometres from the port city of Mariupol - violated “the spirit and the letter of the Minsk Agreements.” The statement urged the Ukrainian government to end "irresponsible actions" in the region.
The ceasefire was reportedly breached 40 times by the Ukrainian government during clashes that started on Monday night and continued into Tuesday, according to rebel leaders. The Ukrainian government, on the other hand, has accused the rebels of carrying out the heaviest shelling since the ceasefire was agreed.
Representatives from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have been monitoring the conflict in eastern Ukraine on the ground, reporting on possible breaches of the ceasefire which was agreed in the Belarusian capital in February, but even they have been caught in the crossfire.
On Sunday, armoured vehicles belonging to the OSCE were targeted in an arson attack, while monitors from the organisation were also caught up in fighting in the city of Luhansk as well as Shyrokyne, near Mariupol.
A Ukrainian military statement on Wednesday said that one soldier was killed and another three soldiers were injured in the clashes in the Mariupol area.
One civilian was also reportedly killed in another part of the region, rebel sources said, as fighting continues for control of a key highway linking Mariupol to the unofficial capital of the rebels’ self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk.
Speaking to the AFP news agency, local government forces spokesman Yaroslav Chepurniy said the Ukrainian army is "giving the enemy's artillery fire a sufficient and equally heavy response."
"If they grab this territory, they will take Mariupol itself," the spokesman said.
Almost 7,000 people have been killed since fighting broke out in Ukraine last year, following the ouster of former pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled the country following pro-EU protests in Kiev.
The crisis led to the autonomous government in Crimea, which is dominated by ethnic Russians, to declare independence from Ukraine and eventually be annexed by Russia following a referendum.