Sun, Nov 09, 2014 - Page 6 News List

Ukrainian ceasefire evaporates

MIXED MESSAGE:The US secretary of state said his nation and Russia agreed to trade information on the region, as Ukrainian officials said Russian tanks crossed the border

Bloomberg and Reuters, Kiev and Beijing

A local resident stands near a damaged building yesterday after overnight shelling, in Donetsk, Ukraine.

Photo: EPA

US Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday that the US and Russia had agreed to exchange information about the situation on the Russia-Ukraine border.

Ukraine’s military accused Russia on Friday of sending a column of 32 tanks and truckloads of troops into the country’s east to support pro-Russian separatists fighting government forces, and later said that as many as 200 rebels were killed in fighting.

“Suffice it to say that we do have some disagreements about some of the facts on the ground with respect to Ukraine. We have agreed to exchange some information between us regarding that. We have also agreed this is a dialogue between us that will continue,” Kerry told reporters in Beijing.

However, he seemed to suggest new Western sanctions against Russia were not imminent.

“The choices Russia makes will decide what happens with respect to sanctions in the long run here,” Kerry said, adding that he hoped a ceasefire agreement in Ukraine would remain viable.

Russia has denied arming rebels in eastern Ukraine who have broken away from the Kiev government.

Before meeting Kerry in the lead-up to an APEC summit, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov deflected a question about whether Moscow was sending tanks and troops to help the separatists.

Lavrov said that the US government on Friday said that it was aware of the reports, but could not independently confirm them.

“Even [US Department of State spokeswoman] Jen Psaki said that the State Department does not have the information about this,” he said. “Well, if Psaki doesn’t have it, I don’t.”

“The ceasefire has been signed between the rebels and the government” in Kiev, Lavrov added. “It is for them to finalize the disengagement line, which they are doing right now.”

No talks at the APEC summit are scheduled between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama, though Washington and the Kremlin have not ruled out an informal conversation on the summit sidelines.

Separately yesterday, Ukraine’s military said its forces killed as many as 200 rebels in Donetsk as dozens of tanks and other military vehicles reportedly crossed the border into Ukraine from Russia.

Insurgents who were shelling Ukrainian troop positions at Donetsk Airport on Friday were killed by government troop artillery strikes, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense said on Facebook.

Four separatist tanks, two armored personnel carriers, two howitzers and an infantry combat vehicle were destroyed, with up to 200 insurgents killed, it said.

The death toll, which could not be independently confirmed, would be the biggest reported number of troops or fighters killed during repeated breaches of a Sept. 5 truce. Earlier, the Ukrainian government said it had suffered more than 100 killed and about 600 wounded since the ceasefire came into force.

The Ukrainian army is preparing for an adequate reaction, National Security and Defense Council spokesman Andriy Lysenko told reporters in Kiev.

He said the rebels’ shelling of government troops with surface-to-surface missiles, mortars and artillery had killed five soldiers and wounded 16 in the previous 24 hours.

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