Ukraine crisis: Pro-Russians seize back Mariupol building as both sides begin burying their dead

Heavy fighting continued overnight as government forces advanced on a rebel-held city hall building

Both sides embroiled in the escalating crisis in Ukraine began burying their dead against a backdrop of more violence, as clashes with pro-Russian militants continued into the night and the country edged closer towards war.

In Kramatorsk, a separatist-held town in the east that saw an advance by Ukrainian troops at the weekend, seven priests led mourners in prayer for a woman killed by large calibre bullets. In the south-western port city of Odessa, a small crowd of about 50 people gathered to bury a pro-Ukrainian activist.  

Overnight, government forces briefly retook a city hall in the eastern port of Mariupol, Ukrainian media announced on Wednesday, after heavy fighting with militants.

Pro-Russian separatists have since seized back the building after government forces left. Russian and "Donetsk Peoples' Republic" flags now fly over Mariupol's city hall, the BBC has reported.

This morning, Ukraine's Channel 5 television said the National Guard had seized the building, forcing rebels into the streets, where they blocked the main thoroughfare, burning tyres and a trolleybus.

Read more: Putin awards pro-Kremlin journalists for their 'objective coverage'

Pro-Moscow militants told Russian news agencies that one of their checkpoints on the outskirts of the city was attacked late on Tuesday by Ukrainian forces or by pro-Kiev militia and they were preparing to repel further assaults.

Local website 0629.com.ua posted images of tyres burning outside the city council building and thick smoke pouring over the town centre. Some streets were barricaded by buses.

A spokesman for pro-Moscow militants told Russia's Itar-Tass news agency that one person was killed and three wounded in an attack on a checkpoint.

The clashes come after Odessa became the centre of violent street battles on Sunday, leaving 40 dead, when petrol bombs led to a fire breaking out in a building where pro-Russian activists had barricaded themselves inside.

The bloodshed led German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to warn the country is on the brink of civil war. "The bloody pictures from Odessa have shown us that we are just a few steps away from a military confrontation," he said in an interview published in four European newspapers.

On Tuesday, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov claimed more than 30 separatists had been killed in fighting around Slavyansk, but this figure could not be confirmed. The rebels, who triggered fighting in the area on Monday by ambushing government troops, said four of their number had been killed.

The next few days could prove decisive when separatists in the eastern Donbass region hold a referendum on secession on 11 May, similar to the one that preceded Russia's annexation of Crimea.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops
films
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'
TVGrace Dent thinks we should learn to 'hug a Hooray Henry', because poshness is an accident of birth
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
art

Presents unwrapped, turkey gobbled... it's time to relax

Arts and Entertainment
Convicted art fraudster John Myatt
art

News
The two-year-old said she cut off her fringe because it was getting in her eyes
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Sales Manager

£60k - 80k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game