Ukraine reports heaviest rebel shelling attack since truce

Ukrainian security authorities accuse separatist rebels of launching heaviest shelling attack since six months and warn over further escalation of crisis though ceasefire measures agreed in Minsk still in force

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

Ukrainian military reported on Monday that the pro-Russian separatist rebels have launched the heaviest artillery attacks in the restive eastern region, hereby, warned on the further escalation of 15 months of military conflict.

Ukrainian army spokesman Andriy Lysenko said that the separatist forces had attacked on government targets with 400 rebel fighters supported by tanks around the village of Starohnativka which is 50 km north of the port city of Mariupol.

"This brazen attack by the occupiers took place against a background of an escalating situation in east Ukraine," Lysenko said as he claimed the attack was the heaviest one since the ceasefire agreement reached in February.

The military spokesman also said one Ukrainian soldier was killed and one is missing while 16 others have been wounded in the attacks carried out by the rebel forces.

Ukraine and the separatist forces based in Donetsk and Luhansk provinces in the Donbass region have been conflicting since the annexation of Crimea by Russia last year.

A Western and Russian mediated ceasefire was imposed on the parties twice under the auspices of Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

But the fragile peace has been frequently violated by both Kiev forces and the separatists since February deal that was reached in the Belarussian capital Minsk.

Lysenko claimed that the separatist attacks aimed to seize Starohnativka which is a vital corridor to the Crimea peninsula to where Russia has no direct land access.

Moscow is planning to construct a bridge over the Kerch strait in order to bind Russia with Crimea which was considered as “novoRossiya (new Russia),” when the Russian President Vladimir Putin once termed the Tauric Peninsula after its reunification with the Russian Federation.

Previously another Ukrainian military spokesman Yaroslav Chepurny had warned that Mariupol was under offensive threat posed by the pro-Russian separatists due to its strategic importance.

"The main danger [to Mariupol] - is in the further approach routes to the city - from the direction of Granitnoe, Starohnativka. We knew about this and were prepared," Chepurny said.  

But a senior separatist commander Eduard Basurin denied the allegations made by the Ukrainian military as he accused Kiev forces of launching intensive shelling, according to rebel press service DAN report.

Since Ukrainian authorities have shown two Russian soldiers who were captured during a battle with the pro-Russian separatists, both Ukraine and the West started to voice up against Russia’s alleged role in the country’s restive east.

The West increased pressure over Moscow which has long been accused of its military support, including of sending weapons and troops to fight on behalf of the separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk.

Russia denies such allegations and accusations made by both Kiev and the West and says that its soldiers have only been patrolling the porous borders with the eastern Ukraine.

Putin several times reiterated that the Kremlin was still committing the truce which he perceives as balanced and fair and said if Russia did not agree with its contents, it would not have signed it.

But the NATO alliance has been warning Russia since the very beginning of this year for its responsibility and increasing involvement in the ongoing separatist war in eastern Ukraine.

According to the UN figures, at least 6,500 people have been killed and 16,000 people wounded during more than 15 months of fierce fightings between Kiev army and the separatist rebels in Ukraine.


TRTWorld, Reuters