Ukraine’s tenuous truce and troop withdrawal deal lay in tatters on Tuesday after the deadliest wave of attacks by pro-Russian insurgents in more than a month killed nine government soldiers. The surge in clashes across the separatist rust belt spelled an ominous start to campaigning for parties that make the ballot for October 26 parliamentary polls once the registration deadline passes on Tuesday night. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told German Chancellor Angela Merkel — his closest and most powerful European ally — on Monday that Russia was ignoring the terms of a September 5 peace pact the sides sealed in the Belarussian capital Minsk. Poroshenko “stressed that he expected Russia to fulfil its Minsk Protocol obligations: to withdraw forces, ensure the border’s closure, and establish a buffer zone,” the presidency said in a statement.
The truce was reinforced with a September 20 deal by each side to pull back 15 kilometres (nine miles) from the front line and allow European monitors to report any resumption of bloodshed that has already claimed more 3,200 lives.
But a weekend attempt by a Russian military delegation to convince the rebels to comply — a war zone visit that represented a rare if indirect admission by Moscow of its sway over the insurgency — ended in seeming failure.
The Ukrainian military said militias on Monday launched a tank assault on a long-disputed airport outside the rebel stronghold of Donetsk in which a shell hit an armoured vehicle filled with government troops.