Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

One dead as Ukraine fighting rages

Ukrainian government troops sit atop of their military vehicle in the Donetsk region (AP)

Fighting has raged in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk despite a request from pro-Russian rebels for a ceasefire to prevent a "humanitarian catastrophe".

One person was killed and 10 injured in shelling that started early on Sunday and continued into the day, city council spokesman Maxim Rovinsky said.

More than 10 residential buildings, as well as a hospital and a shop, were heavily damaged by shelling overnight, and several buses caught in the crossfire were still burning on Sunday morning.

On Saturday, rebel leader Aleksandr Zakharchenko called for a ceasefire but his request was met warily by both the Ukrainian government in Kiev and the West. Those leaders expressed concern that the move could be aimed at increasing international pressure on Ukraine to allow in a Russian aid mission. The West said that could be used as a pretext to bring Russian soldiers into Ukraine.

Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko and Western leaders have repeatedly accused Russia of providing arms and expertise to the rebels, something Russia denies.

Rebel spokeswoman Elena Nikitina denounced the government as "incapable of negotiating" and said talks to regulate the conflict could only begin if "the Ukrainian army is withdrawn" from the region.

Since the Ukrainian government has steadily retaken territory from the rebels over the last few weeks and tightened its circle around their strongholds, it is unlikely to agree to that demand.

At least 300,000 of Donetsk's one million residents have fled as violence escalates between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists, claiming the lives of more than 1,300 people, according to the UN.

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