The fresh action came just hours after the start of a ceasefire at
10 p.m. on Friday by Ukrainian forces, ordered by President Petro
Poroshenko as part of his plan to end the rebel insurgency in the
east of the country.
A government forces spokesman said the separatists used mortars and
sniper fire to attack Ukrainian posts at Izvareno and Uspenka on the
border, wounding nine Ukrainian officers.
In other incidents, rebels with big caliber machine guns and
grenade-launchers attacked a Ukrainian military position at
Avdiyivka, near the main regional town of Donetsk, as well as a
Ukrainian post at Kreminna.
Separatists controlling the town of Slaviansk also attacked
Ukrainian forces on Karachun hill overlooking the town with mortars
and grenade-launchers, the spokesman, Vladyslav Seleznyov, said.
"In all these episodes, the attacks of the (rebel) fighters were
deflected," Seleznyov said. "There were no losses to Ukrainian
servicemen. The number of dead fighters is being established".
Poroshenko, announcing the week-long ceasefire on Friday night,
urged the rebels to lay down their arms and warned them that
Ukrainian forces would return fire if attacked.
Ukrainian forces also repelled two attacks by around 50
heavily-armed fighters in the early morning on an air defense base
at Avdiyivka, which houses surface-to-air missiles, the defense
ministry said separately. No Ukrainian personnel were hurt and rebel
losses were being established, it added.
The rebels, who have seized strategic points in major towns
including Donetsk and set up "people's republics", saying they want
to join Russia, said Ukraine has broken its own ceasefire.
"I've spoken to our commander-in-chief, Igor Strelkov. He said that
fighting resumed in the morning. There is no ceasefire at all,"
Pavel Gubarev, a prominent rebel leader, told Rossiya-24 TV channel.
Either Ukrainian troops were not obeying Poroshenko, or "he is
lying", Gubarev said.
Poroshenko, installed on June 7 as president after seven months of
turmoil in the ex-Soviet republic, ordered government forces to
cease firing to allow his 15-point peace plan to take root. The
ceasefire ends at 10 p.m. on June 27.
The insurgency in the Russian-speaking east erupted in April after
street protests in the capital Kiev toppled the Moscow-backed Viktor
Yanukovich. Russia subsequently annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.
Poroshenko is gearing up for a diplomatic push to sell his plan but
his biggest challenge will be to win over Russian President Vladimir
Putin. Relations with Moscow are at rock bottom and Kiev accuses
Moscow of fomenting the unrest.
Poroshenko has offered an amnesty to separatists who disarm
voluntarily as well as corridors to allow fighters from Russia or
pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists to leave safely for Russia.
The Kremlin on Friday denounced the ceasefire as an ultimatum rather
than a peace offering and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
expressed concern about Ukrainian military action.
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"It is disturbing and raises concerns that, simultaneously with this
(ceasefire) announcement...the so-called anti-terrorist operation is
increasing," Interfax quoted him as saying during a visit to Saudi
Ukraine, for its part, expressed concern on Saturday about
an increase in Russian movements near the border.
"The continuing concentration of Russian armed forces and their
heightened activity near the border with Ukraine causes special
concern against a background of numerous facts that confirm weapons
and military equipment are being supplied to the terrorists,"
Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
In Donetsk about 100 troops of the self-styled separatist Donetsk
People's Republic took an oath of an allegiance, in an apparent sign
of defiance to Porosheko's peace plan.
In a ceremony on the town's Lenin Square, armed fighters, some
wearing face masks, pledged they would "defend the Donetsk People's
Republic to the last drop of blood."
"We swear, we swear, we swear," they chanted in unison.
Alexei, a miner, said he decided to take up arms last week: "I am
43. I have children. I had a job but I dropped everything to defend
A number of women, many in tears, rushed to hug troops and give them
flowers. "A great day, a great day, we love our army. They will
protect us from fascists," said Nastya, 32, holding hands with one
Across the square, far from the crowd, Mykola, a 23 year-old student
from Donetsk said he despised the rebels.
"They are stupid and short-sighted and brainwashed by Moscow
propaganda and common people will continue to suffer." He refused to
give his full name fearing reprisals for his pro-Ukrainian position.
(Additional reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic in Donetsk, Pavel
Polityuk in Kiev and Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow; Writing By
Richard Balmforth; Editing by Jon Boyle)
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