An outbreak of shelling in residential districts of Donetsk, the eastern Ukrainian city under pro-Russian separatist control, has led to renewed claims by both sides that the other has violated the gradually disintegrating ceasefire.
The shelling was the first such attack since a deal to put an end to fighting in the civil war was signed on Minsk in February. Rebels blamed the Ukrainian military, saying the attacks had killed a civilian, destroyed buildings and started a string of fires.
But Ukrainian military observers said they witnessed rebel missile systems “turned towards Donetsk, shelling residential areas of Donetsk, then turning and starting to fire in the direction of Ukrainian positions”. Intercepted rebel radio traffic also suggested plans to shell the city.
More than 6,500 people have been killed since the conflict broke out in eastern Ukraine in April last year. Attacks had lessened since the peace agreement, but both sides are increasingly accusing one another of violations.
Senior rebel commander Eduard Basurin denied separatists were responsible for the attacks. “I have no explanation. The Ukrainian side says we shelled ourselves. Do you believe we can shell ourselves?” he said by phone.
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is monitoring the ceasefire, has said neither side has fully withdrawn their heavy artillery from the frontline as required by the peace deal.