DONETSK, Ukraine (AFP) – Heavy artillery fire on Wednesday rocked east Ukraine’s pro-Russian rebel bastion of Donetsk, after international monitors warned over escalating violence following the arrival of columns of insurgent reinforcements.
The explosions of mortars being fired from near the centre towards government positions at the ruined airport rumbled on from early in the morning, setting off car alarms, an AFP correspondent said.
Donetsk’s city hall said in a statement “the sound of artillery fire and explosions can be heard in all districts” of the mining hub.
Ukraine’s military said Wednesday one soldier had been killed and two wounded, including one at the airport, as its positions came under repeated shelling around the region.
The intensified shelling, the heaviest since the weekend, comes after observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in east Ukraine warned that growing clashes could tip the region back into all-out conflict despite a ceasefire deal.
A frequently-violated truce has been in place in the east of the former Soviet republic since September. It has halted clashes along much of the frontline but not stopped bombardments at strategic flashpoints.
Government forces also accused the rebels of trying to capture a strategic location along the volatile frontline, delineated as part of the ceasefire deal, north of the second-largest rebel stronghold Lugansk.
The Lugansk region governor, who is loyal to Kiev, said there were increased artillery bombardments along the frontline close to the city.
A spokesman for the OSCE, which is monitoring the ceasefire, cautioned Tuesday that there was a “rising” risk of an escalation in the conflict, which has claimed more than 4,000 lives in total since April, according to UN figures.
Earlier Tuesday, OSCE observers reported seeing a convoy of 43 unmarked military trucks – five towing Howitzer heavy artillery pieces and another five towing multi-launch rocket systems – travelling into the rebel stronghold of Donetsk.