Latest East Ukraine Pullback Falters Amid Renewed Fighting

  • Military says rebel attacks more than doubled in past 24 hours
  • Donetsk insurgents accuse Kiev of disrupting pullback pledge

Pro-Russian separatists troops leave their position during withdrawal in the village of Petrovske, some 50 km from Donetsk, on October 3, 2016.

Photographer: ALEKSEY FILIPPOV/AFP via Getty Images

Ukraine and the Russian-backed separatists its army is fighting reported a spike in violence in the nation’s east, threatening to destroy the latest attempt to achieve a lasting end to more than two years of violence.

Rebel attacks doubled to 68 from 32 in the past 24 hours, with artillery and heavy mortars being used in place of the light weapons seen in recent days, the military said Wednesday.  The latest shelling statistics are “saddening,” spokesman Andriy Lysenko said by web link from the capital, Kiev. Cease-fire violations in the Luhansk area have risen “sharply,” he said.

The army has ignored last month’s agreement for a partial pullback in three small areas near the front line, rebel spokesman Eduard Basurin said on the website of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. The deadline to begin the pullback expired Oct. 5, he said. Ukraine’s military says it can only begin after seven days with no weapons fired.

The conflict in Ukraine’s easternmost regions continues to simmer, with a 2015 peace accord unfulfilled and each side blaming the other for its failure as the death toll approaches 10,000 people. After renewed diplomatic efforts from Germany and France to achieve progress, the latest flare-up comes as ties between Russia and the U.S., already at loggerheads over the conflict as well as over the war in Syria, plummeted further this week.

Regular talks Wednesday in the Belarusian capital of Minsk, where the original peace deal was signed, yielded little. The parties agreed that they’d each declare when they’re ready for the pullback, according to Martin Sajdik, who represents the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe at the negotiations. Full adherence to the cease-fire would obviously help in achieving the goal, he said.

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