Fighting subsides after Ukraine ceasefire

Ukraine-15-2-15.-pixFighting in east Ukraine has subsided but not stopped since a ceasefire came into effect, the warring parties say.

Spokesmen for both the government and the pro-Russian rebels said some shelling had continued, mainly around the besieged town of Debaltseve.

But both sides say the truce that came into force at midnight (22:00 GMT Saturday) is holding with some exceptions.

OSCE monitors agree, but complain they have been denied access to Debaltseve.

The OSCE’s Michael Bociurkiw: “There has been an exchange of artillery fire and I believe that is ongoing”

The town – a key transport hub – has been the object of some of the fiercest fighting in the conflict zone in recent weeks, and the ongoing struggle there appears to pose the gravest threat to the truce.

Analysts point out that previous ceasefires initially appeared to be holding but eventually failed, and say the next 48 hours are critical.

Officials say more than 5,400 people have been killed since the conflict erupted in eastern Ukraine in April, but the UN believes the actual death toll to be much higher.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel brokered the agreement on Thursday after lengthy talks in the Belarusian capital Minsk.

President Poroshenko has warned that Ukraine will not “turn the other cheek” if the deal is violated. In a televised address at the time the ceasefire took hold, he said Ukrainian troops in Debaltseve had been resupplied with ammunition.

-BBC

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