Ukraine Peace Talks Fall Apart Amid New Fighting

Ukraine

Ukraine peace talks again failed Friday as hostilities intensified between government forces and Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country. AP reports:

The escalation in fighting has centered on the airport of the rebel stronghold, Donetsk, where rebel militia have renewed efforts to dislodge government troops. Separatists say they have almost total control over the civilian terminal, but Ukrainian troops say they still hold parts of the building.

Representatives from Ukraine and Russia, separatist envoys and officials of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe had been set to meet Friday in Minsk, Belarus, to discuss firming up a cease-fire to be monitored by the OSCE.

Rebel envoy Denis Pushilin, speaking in Minsk, blamed Ukrainians for the worsening security situation and said Kiev should have dispatched envoys capable of taking decisions to the talks. Former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has represented his country at previous negotiation rounds, but declined to participate on this occasion.

Residential areas in Donetsk remain caught in the artillery crossfire. Separatist authorities in Donetsk said four people died in a fire Thursday after a warehouse was hit by a shell.

The U.N. estimates that more than 4,700 people have been killed in eastern Ukraine since April, and fighting has continued despite September’s cease-fire deal that included a provision to pull back heavy weapons.

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