Sat, Jan 24, 2015 - Page 6 News List

Peace initiative for Ukraine threatened by latest attack

AP, SOKILNYKY, Ukraine

Hours after a new peace initiative for Ukraine began taking shape, mortar shells rained down on the center of the main rebel-held city in the east on Thursday, killing at least 13 people at a bus stop.

The deaths in Donetsk sparked wrath and grief that was swiftly exploited by pro-Russian rebel leaders, who paraded captive Ukrainian troops through the city to be punched, kicked and insulted by enraged residents.

Diplomats from Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany had met in Berlin on Wednesday to thrash out a tentative dividing line from which the warring sides would pull back their heavy weapons. That solution already looks doomed.

Fighting in eastern Ukraine is now fiercer than ever in some locations, NATO’s top commander in Europe, US Air Force General Philip Breedlove, said on Thursday in Brussels.

He added that weapons systems now seen in the region have in the past heralded a fresh incursion by Russian troops.

The UN Security Council condemned the killings “in the strongest terms” and “underlined the need to conduct an objective investigation and bring perpetrators of this reprehensible act to justice.”

In a statement approved by all 15 members, the council also welcomed Wednesday’s new peace initiative and underlined the need to fully implement a ceasefire agreement from September last year.

Separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko said the front line will now be pushed back away from the fringes of Donetsk to avoid any similar attacks, which he blamed on Ukrainian troops.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense said that the stricken area was 15km from the nearest government position and artillery that struck was likely launched from within rebel territory.

In Kiev, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko appeared to be holding out hope for a new ceasefire, but said stern retribution would await anybody violating the peace.

“If the enemy doesn’t want to abide by the ceasefire, if he doesn’t want to put an end to the suffering of peaceful people, Ukrainian villages and town, we will smash them in the teeth,” Poroshenko told a meeting of top defense officials.

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