KIEV/DONETSK Ukraine (Reuters) - Ukraine’s military accused Russian-backed separatists of again violating a month-old ceasefire on Sunday, saying their forces came under attack in several parts of the east including the airport at the big city of Donetsk.
Two Ukrainian service staff were killed in the past 24 hours and six others were wounded, military spokesman Volodymyr Polyovy told a news conference in the capital Kiev, adding: “The terrorists are violating the terms of the ceasefire.”
In Donetsk, the rebels’ stronghold in east Ukraine, a senior military leader of the separatists said three of his fighters were killed and another 32 wounded in the past 24 hours, mainly in fighting around the city airport.
Rebels have been trying for weeks to dislodge government troops from the airport, a strategic spot for both sides.
“The airport is a springboard for the city,” Basulin told Reuters. “Our main task is to push them (government forces) away from the city so that they can no longer shell residential districts. ”
Polyovy said there was also fighting around the towns of Debaltseve and Shchastye both further east towards the border with Russia.
Basulin said three civilians had also been killed in Donetsk area in the past 24 hours and blamed Ukrainian forces for shelling the city’s outskirts from positions adjacent to the airport.
The Ukrainian military denies firing on civilian targets and says it only replies to fire when it is attacked by separatists.
In Donetsk on Sunday at least residential blocks and a former kindergarten were damaged by shelling in the area of Gladkovka and battles continued around the airport sitting not far away.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called the ceasefire on Sept. 5 after government troops suffered heavy losses which Kiev attributed to Russian troops reinforcing the separatists who want to break away from pro-Western Kiev’s rule.
Moscow denies its troops have been directly involved in the fighting despite what Kiev and Western government say is incontrovertible proof.
Poroshenko is hoping the ceasefire, cornerstone of a peace plan to end the conflict in which more than 3,500 people have been killed according to U.N. figures, will generally hold together for parliamentary elections on Oct. 26.
But the truce has come under great pressure this past week.
Last Monday, seven Ukrainian troops were killed in a single missile strike from a separatist tank and at least 10 people were killed on Wednesday when mortar bombs hit a school playground and a public transit van nearby.
On Thursday night, a Swiss Red Cross worker was killed when a shell exploded near the international organization’s office in Donetsk.
Writing by Richard Balmforth; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Sophie Walker