Fragile new Ukraine truce holds for third day
Ukraine and Russia — two ex-Soviet neighbours that are now sworn foes — agreed to the armistice Wednesday with the help of mediation from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
The rebels signed on to the ceasefire Friday after some deliberation.
But mortar and artillery fire has continued unabated without claiming any lives.
“Our positions came under attack 33 times since early Sunday,” the Ukranian military said in a statement.
The insurgents’ website said their side had come under fire from Ukrainian grenade launchers 62 times in the past day.
Such weapons have been banned by a February 2015 peace agreement that both sides have long ignored.
Kiev and its Western allies view the eastern separatists as Russian proxies who have been fighting for 31 months to destabilise the Ukrainian government and keep it dependent on the Kremlin’s whims.
Moscow denies interfering in the conflict but international monitors have seen tanks and other heavy military equipment enter the Ukrainian war zone from Russia throughout the war.
In March 2014 Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula a month after the ouster of the Moscow-backed government in Kiev.
The latest truce came shortly after a battle for control of Debaltseve — a railway hub that links the pro-Russian regions of Lugasnk and Donetsk.
Details are disputed but Kiev appears to have won back control of most regions around the town after an initial rebel assault.
Debaltseve has been under separatist control since an immense January 2015 battle prompted Germany and France to step in and force all sides to agree to a peace deal the following month.
But the war in the European Union’s back yard has raged on and now claimed nearly 10,000 lives.
Some analysts and officials feel this truce may last longer than the others because of its indefinite nature.
Nearly all the ceasefires agreed by the two sides had earlier been fixed to specific events such as the start of the school year or a religious holidays.