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Europe

Heavy shelling breaks out near Donetsk after Ukraine poll

Shelling has erupted in eastern Ukraine a day after the country held a parliamentary election. President Poroshenko says the poll showed majority backing for his plan to negotiate an end to the country's conflict.

Heavy shellfire broke out again on Monday on the outskirts of the pro-Russian stronghold of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, a day after a parliamentary poll that seemed to show strong backing for the pro-Western reform course of President Petro Poroshenko.

"Powerful firing has been heard from high-caliber guns and explosions," a report on the website of the mayor of Donetsk said.

Heavy rockets hit the Ukrainian government-held base in Avdiivka, north of Donetsk, a local resident told the AFP news agency. The attack has not been confirmed.

Tensions remain high in the region despite a September 5 ceasefire signed between Kyiv and pro-Russian separatists in the east who have declared their own "people's republics" in the region. The weekend saw an unusual lull in the fighting during the poll.

The ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine, which has a large Russian-speaking population, prevented many from voting in Sunday's parliamentary election, a factor that probably worked in favor of pro-Western parties. Voters in Crimea - which was annexed by Russia in a contentious move earlier this year - were also unable to take part.

Insurgents plan to hold their own leadership vote next Sunday, but Kyiv has rejected its legitimacy.

Parliamentary overhaul

With more than one-third of votes counted, two allied pro-European parties - Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk's Popular Front and the president's Petro Poroshenko Bloc - took a joint lead, with the Popular Front ahead by a thin margin.

The result will lead to a radical overhaul of the parliament, which was once dominated by loyalists of former Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovych.

Yanukovych was ousted in late February amid massive protests against his decision to follow a course moving the country toward closer ties with Russia. His ouster, in turn, triggered an insurgency by pro-Russian rebels in the east of the country who would like to see Ukraine return to Russia's orbit.

Kyiv has accused Russia of arming rebels and fomenting the insurgency, but Moscow has always denied the charges.

'Pro-European course confirmed'

In a speech to the nation, Poroshenko said that "more than three quarters of voters who took part in the polls gave strong and irreversible backing to Ukraine's path to Europe."

He said that a majority also back his plans to bring about a negotiated end to the war with the separatists.

Poroshenko has insisted that the conflict, which has killed 3,700 people, cannot be ended by military means, and says he is ready to negotiate autonomy - but not independence - for the pro-Russian regions.

tj/mz (AFP, AP)

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