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Ukraine Battles Flare Up After Army's Worst Day Since Truce

Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 09:09 AM

 Fighting continued in Ukraine between government forces and separatists one day after the country’s military suffered its worst casualties since signing a truce earlier this month.

Separatists tried to storm the government-held Donetsk airport twice in the past 24 hours, Ukraine military spokesman Andriy Lysenko told reporters today in Kiev. Rebels shelled Ukrainian army positions with Grad multiple rocket launchers in at least four locations, the military said on Facebook. Nine Ukrainian soldiers were killed in attacks, including a separatist tank assault on an armored personnel carrier near Donetsk airport, the government said yesterday.

The violence contrasts with comments last week by President Petro Poroshenko that the worst of the war is over as Ukraine focuses on elections next month, securing gas supplies and preparing a bid for European Union membership. Russia, which denies involvement in the conflict, said it wants to normalize ties with the EU and the U.S. after being hit by sanctions.

“A cease-fire doesn’t mean peace,” Jan Techau, director of the Brussels office of the Carnegie Endowment, said by phone. “It’s a hot stalemate with skirmishes but no massive offensive. It clearly shows that there’s no solution to the conflict.”

Worst Violence

The violence was the worst flare-up since the truce agreement was signed Sept. 5. The two sides have since agreed to establish a 30 kilometer (19 miles) buffer zone between government forces and the rebels and exchange prisoners.

The conflict has killed more than 3,500 people and driven at least 615,000 from their homes, the United Nations estimates.

The ruble declined less than 0.1 percent against the dollar at 3:42 p.m. Moscow time. Russia’s Micex index rose 0.9 percent.

While EU countries delayed the creation of a free-trade area with Ukraine until 2016 at Russia’s urging, they have held fast on refusing to ease sanctions. The government in Moscow asked the central bank yesterday to consider providing foreign currency swaps to banks, the government said on its website. Sanctioned companies including state-run oil producer OAO Rosneft and gas producer OAO Novatek have asked for aid.

Russian Economy

Russia’s economy is “not in very good shape,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with Bloomberg Sept. 28. He softened his tack in comments about the U.S., telling Russian Channel Five television it was time for ties to undergo a “reset 2.0,” a reference to a bid by President Barack Obama’s administration in 2009 to improve relations.

“We are absolutely interested in normalizing ties, but it wasn’t us who destroyed them,” Lavrov told Channel Five, according to a transcript on his ministry’s website.

Still, Lavrov said Russia won’t change its stance over Ukraine to win a repeal of sanctions. Ukraine accuses Russia of fomenting the unrest near the two nations’ border to prevent it from joining NATO and the EU following the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych, an ally of Vladimir Putin.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the slight easing of the conflict in recent weeks wasn’t a reason to roll back sanctions.

“I don’t see any change at the moment regarding Russia’s position,” she told reporters yesterday in Berlin. “Sometimes in history one has to be prepared for the long haul, and not ask after four months if it still makes sense to keep up our demands.”

Merkel Critical

Merkel, speaking today in Gross-Gerau, Germany, said that while she wants to keep a channel open for talks with the Kremlin, it’s impossible to go back to business as usual with Russia given the situation in Ukraine.

The up-tick in violence may indicate the cease-fire is unraveling as Russia and the separatists see its usefulness waning, said Joerg Forbrig, senior program officer for central and eastern Europe at the Berlin Bureau of the German Marshall Fund of the U.S.

The militants may be thinking, “It didn’t help in reducing Western pressure, so we might as well go on with what we were doing before,” Forbrig said by phone.


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Fighting continued in Ukraine between government forces and separatists one day after the country's military suffered its worst casualties since signing a truce earlier this month. Separatists tried to storm the government-held Donetsk airport twice in the past 24 hours,...
ukraine, battles, flare, up
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2014-09-30
Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 09:09 AM
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