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Ukraine ceasefire crumbles, fighting continues in Donetsk

After faltering since it was signed on September 5, both sides of the Ukrainian conflict have said they will withdraw from the Minsk ceasefire agreement. Fighting has already resumed at Donetsk airport.

The shaky ceasefire in Ukraine fell apart on Wednesday. Both sides have accused the other of violating the agreement. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had already accused rebels in the Donbass region of violating the September 5 accords by holding their own election on Sunday instead of waiting for Kyiv to organize one for them in December.

The pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk, in return, denounced President Poroshenko for asking that parliament scrap a law that would have given autonomy to the restive eastern region. The law would have allowed the areas surrounding Donetsk and Luhansk a greater say in their own affairs and granted amnesty to separatist fighters. Poroshenko added the east would receive no funds from Kyiv until "terrorists clear out of there."

The separatists indicated that in retaliation, they would no longer abide by the ceasefire. President Poroshenko's response was to order troop reinforcements to eastern cities. There is a great fear in Kyiv that the separtists will take the city of Mariupol, effectively connecting Russia and the annexed Crimea region.

New ceasefire possible?

Later on Wednesday, fighting broke out once again near Donetsk airport, which has been the scene of clashes for weeks. Salvos of Grad rockets and black smoke were seen rising above Peski, a government-held village nearby.

Ceasefire observers, which included representatives from Kyiv, Russia, the rebel leadership and European security organization OSCE, have agreed to meet to discuss an end to the hostilities around the airport, a Ukrainian military spokesman said.

"We are prepared to work on a new version of the agreement," separatist leaders from Donetsk and Luhansk wrote in a somewhat unusual joint statement.

Sunday's elections were recognized by Russia, much to the consternation of Ukraine, the US, and the EU. Russia has shown no reluctance to provoke the West recently, last week Russia conducted "significant military maneuvers" in NATO airspace, and tested an intercontinental Sineva missile on Wednesday.

es/sb (AFP, Reuters)

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