Ukraine says rebel attacks continue, impeding peace process

A Ukrainian security official said that attacks by Russia-backed rebel fighters continue despite a cease-fire called for by both sides more than two weeks ago

MOSCOW –A Ukrainian security official said Sunday that attacks by Russia-backed rebel fighters are continuing despite a cease-fire called for by both sides more than two weeks ago.

Col. Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine’s national security council, said two Ukrainian servicemen and about 40 rebels had died in clashes over the past day. He said the fighters fired on Ukrainian positions at 22 locations and that they fired artillery at the airport in Donetsk, the largest rebel-held city.

The city council of Mariupol, a strategically vital city on the coast of the Sea of Azov, said sporadic shelling of points on its outskirts took place during the night and into Sunday daytime. There were no immediate reports of injuries there.

A cease-fire was called on Sept. 5 but has been violated repeatedly. Negotiators from Ukraine, Russia, the rebels and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe last week tried to further the peace process with an agreement calling for both sides to halt their advances and for pulling back heavy artillery in order to create a buffer zone.

But Lysenko said the cease-fire violations are obstructing fulfilment of the buffer zone plan. “The first point (the cease-fire) is not being fulfilled so far, so we’re not talking about the other points,” he said.

Along with pulling back the heavy weapons, the plan also calls for the withdrawal of foreign fighters and for all military flights over the combat area to be banned.

More than 3,000 people have died in the conflict that has been raging since mid-April. Ukraine and Western countries claim Russia is providing equipment and support to the rebels and that Russia has sent in troops of its own; Moscow consistently denies this.