′Shaky′ truce holds in Ukraine as UN raises death toll | News | DW | 08.09.2014
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'Shaky' truce holds in Ukraine as UN raises death toll

The "shaky" truce between government forces and pro-Russian separatists is largely holding in eastern Ukraine. The United Nations says the death toll in the region has risen above 3,000 if the MH17 victims are included.

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Max Hofmann in Brussels

The ceasefire was holding on Monday, after what Kyiv said was sporadic rebel shelling overnight.

"Overall the ceasefire held even though it is still shaky," said Ambassador Thomas Greminger of Switzerland, who chairs the Organization for Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The OSCE is currently overseeing the Ukraine ceasefire, which took effect on Friday evening.

The deal will include an exchange of prisoners. A senior separatist leader on Monday was quoted as saying the expected "all-for-all" swap would take place Wednesday.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is visited the coastal city of Mariupol on Monday. The strategic port, located on the Sea of Azov, was the site of fighting over the weekend that killed one woman and threatened to derail the tentative truce.

Rising death toll

A senior UN Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights, Ivan Simonovic, said Monday that the confirmed number of people killed in Ukraine was now above 3,000 and that figure may be significantly higher.

Since fighting broke out at the end of April, at least 2,729 people have been killed, in addition to the 298 victims of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 that was shot out of the sky over eastern Ukraine on July 17.

"This number [of people killed in Ukraine] includes killings registered based on available resources and … the actual number may be significantly higher," Simonovic told an extraordinary meeting of the OSCE in Vienna.

Further EU sanctions

European leaders Monday are set to announce further sanctions against Russia for its role in the Ukraine conflict. Western governments have accused Moscow of arming and assisting the separatist fighters.

European Union President Herman Van Rompuy said Sunday the 28-member bloc would review its plans for more sanctions "if the ceasefire is durable, and/or if the peace talks start."

"We have noted that Russia only consented with difficulty to serious negotiations," he told Belgian television. "The ceasefire is an important step, but it's only a step."

The new sanctions are set to be approved Monday. The measures would target individuals for travel bans and asset freezes, as well as tighten access to capital markets for Russian oil and defense companies.

Russia mulls response

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said that Moscow would respond to the fresh sanctions by restricting its airspace for Western airlines.

"Our understanding is that we have friendly relations with our partners, which is why the skies over Russia are open to flights," he told Moscow's Vedomosti newspaper.

"If we are sanctioned, we will have to respond," Medvedev added. "If Western airlines are going to circumvent our airspace, this could bankrupt many companies that are already teetering on the edge of survival."

dr/hc (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)

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