Location Ukraine Ukraine

Heavy fighting in eastern Ukraine kills at least 19

Fighting broke out on Wednesday between separatist forces and Ukrainian soldiers on the outskirts of Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine, killing at least 19 people, officials from both sides said, and threatening an already fragile ceasefire.
Through the day, a seesaw battle was waged with tanks and rocket launchers for control of two small towns, Maryinka and Krasnohorivka, held by the government. Medics reported Ukrainian forces reeling in bloody and chaotic street fighting, and Ukrainian television said 25 soldiers had been wounded.
Under a peace accord known as the Minsk II agreement, after the city in Belarus where it was signed in February, heavy weapons such as tanks and launchers were supposed to have been pulled back from the front. The ceasefire, one element of that agreement, has proved to be shaky, with low-grade fighting flaring up sporadically in contested areas.
Witnesses reported booms and heavy smoke rising from the towns, and Ukrainian officials were discussing whether it meant that the war, in abeyance for a few months, had resumed in full again.
Rebel minister of defense Vladimir Kononov said 15 separatist fighters and civilians had been killed. Yuri Biryukov, an adviser to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, said three Ukrainian soldiers had been killed, while a local official in Dnepropetrovsk, another city in eastern Ukraine, said one civilian had been killed there.
Authorities in Kiev said the rebels struck first with a surprise attack that began with an artillery bombardment at about 3am.
As the sun came up, an infantry and tank assault on the town ensued, Ukrainian officials said.
“Krasnohorivka and Maryinka are in flames,” Yevhen Deydey, a Ukrainian lawmaker and former commander of the Kiev-1 volunteer battalion, said on Facebook. “All along the line, close combat is taking place. Fighters are trying to break through.”
Separatist leaders denied that they had attacked and a rebel spokesman said that the Ukrainian military had withdrawn from Maryinka on its own.
By evening, it was unclear whether Ukraine’s military had lost the towns. At one point, Deydey wrote on Facebook that Maryinka had been “70 percent” captured by separatists.
Later, though, Ukrainian military authorities said a ceasefire had silenced the guns and restored government control in the area.
Maryinka, though an eerie ghost town after heavy fighting in the summer of last year, is strategic because it lies along the main access road for civilian traffic into Donetsk.
If Maryinka is captured, it would become the most significant territorial advance by the separatists since their forces surrounded and then overran the town of Debaltseve in February.


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