Phoney ceasefire: Russia-backed separatists keeping up attacks on Donetsk airport

Ukraine accused Russian forces on Friday of helping separatists step up pressure on government troops holding the main airport in the eastern city of Donetsk, threatening a fragile ceasefire.

Military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said Ukrainian forces had repelled several separatist attacks on the airport in the past 24 hours but “non-stop fighting” continued and “significant numbers of armour, heavy artillery and troops” had moved into the area.

“The Russians have sent in a full unit of drones over the airport, directed by Russian specialists, in order to carry out air reconnaissance and to direct fire,” he told journalists.

Mortar and artillery fire has increased between separatists and government troops in rebel-controlled Donetsk, the east’s main industrial hub, in recent days after a lull last week, Reuters reports.

Two Ukrainian servicemen had been killed and 9 others had been wounded in the past 24 hours, Lysenko said.

The government forces still had control of the airport, a strategic point with modernised runways able to take heavy transporter planes. Defences had been strengthened, he added.

Five civilians were hurt in the Donetsk hostilities over the past day, says a report posted on the Donetsk City Council website on Friday.

“The fighting subsided overnight but in the morning residents said they could again hear the sound of heavy gunfire in the Leninsky, Kyivsky, Kalininsky and Kuibyshevsky districts,” the report runs.

The sound of single shots fired from large-caliber weapons was sporadically heard in some districts of Donetsk on Friday morning, Interfax Ukraine reports.

According to Andriy Lysenko, on the coast of the Sea of Azov Ukrainian intelligence had also reported that more Russian armour and a Russian reconnaissance unit had moved in near the town of Mariupol.

Mariupol, which is defended by Kiev government forces, is of strategic importance since its loss could help open up a route for Russian-backed forces to the Crimean peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in March.

Lysenko said though the ceasefire was almost a month old, the separatists were still not respecting the truce.

“Since the attacking side has not ceased fire, the Ukrainian side is not pulling back its arms and is continuing to defend its positions. But the Ukrainian army is not conducting attacking, offensive manoeuvres,” he said., following Reuters, Interfax Ukraine

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