Ukraine soldiers, civilians suffer worst violence in a week

Eastern Ukraine has suffered the worst violence in more than a week as fighting between pro-Russian rebels and government troops in the region killed at least 12 people and wounded 32, officials said Monday.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had said he believed "the most dangerous part of the war" is over

A Ukrainian serviceman sits at his anti-aircraft heavy machine gun at a military camp near the town of Debaltseve in eastern Ukraine on Monday. At least nine troops were killed in one day, according to a Ukrainian official. (David Mdzinarishvili/Reuters)

Eastern Ukraine has suffered the worst violence in more than a week as fighting between pro-Russian rebels and government troops in the region killed at least 12 people and wounded 32, officials said Monday.

Col. Andriy Lysenko told journalists in a briefing in Kyiv on Monday that at least nine troops had been killed in a day and 27 had been wounded.

Meanwhile, the city council of Donetsk said in a statement published online that at least three civilians were killed and five wounded in overnight shelling of a residential area in the northern part of the city, where fighting has centred on the government-held airport. Throughout the day in Donetsk, regular explosions could be heard coming from the north of the city.

Violence has continued despite a ceasefire declared on Sept. 5. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has been at pains to insist to a skeptical audience at home that his peace plan is working and said last week that he believed "the most dangerous part of the war" is over.

Displays of anti-Russian sentiment

Since fighting began in April, the conflict has claimed at least 3,500 lives. On Sept. 20, representatives of Russia, Ukraine, and the rebels signed another agreement that would require both sides to remove all heavy artillery from the frontline, creating a buffer zone that would allow the ceasefire to be better enforced. 
People react after a statue of Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin was toppled by protesters during a rally organized by pro-Ukraine supporters in the centre of the eastern Ukrainian town of Kharkiv on Sunday. (Reuters)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin said that the situation in east Ukraine was "anything but satisfactory."

"The elementary question of the ceasefire is not yet cleared up, still less the future status and cooperation between the Luhansk and Donetsk regions and the Ukrainian central government," Merkel said. "There is no protection of the border along the entire Luhansk and Donetsk region — no control, no buffer zones, and all of that is the minimum condition for us to be able to consider revoking sanctions. Unfortunately, we are a very long way away from that."

The EU imposed several rounds of sanctions on Russian companies and individuals for their role in the east Ukraine conflict. Kyiv and the West have repeatedly asserted that Moscow has fuelled the separatist insurgency by providing it with arms and personnel, something Russia denies.

On Sunday, in the second-largest Ukrainian city, Kharkiv, nationalists tore down an enormous statue of Vladimir Lenin to cheers from the crowd. Across Ukraine, people have torn down statues to the former Communist leader in a symbolic display of anti-Russian sentiment.

The authorities in Kharkiv supported the move. Arsen Avakov, Ukraine's Minister of Internal Affairs and a Kharkiv native, wrote on his Facebook page: "Lenin? Let him fall... As long as nobody gets hurt."