Shelling and other clashes between government forces and Russian-backed separatists threw the ceasefire agreement in eastern Ukraine into deepening peril today, two days after it took hold. At least two houses hit by artillery fire blazed in the rural village of Spartak, which lies just north of the main rebel-held city of Donetsk and adjacent to the airport. A man whose house was struck by a shell says rebels had fired from a spot nearby, and that apparently provoked a retaliatory attack from Ukrainian government troops. A group of rebel fighters in the village danced and drank this morning in celebration after what they say was a successful assault on a Ukrainian military encampment in the area.
One says the group had captured eight government troops, though no captives could be seen. The fighter, who gave only the nom de guerre Khokhol, says the truce was not being respected by either side. "There was mortar shelling around 20 minutes ago here in Spartak," he says. "There is no ceasefire for anyone." The truce—signed on Friday by Ukraine, Russia, and the Kremlin-backed rebels after five months of fighting that killed at least 2,600 civilians and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes—was shattered late yesterday by shelling on the outskirts of the coastal town of Mariupol. The city council said today that one civilian was killed and a serviceman wounded. (Read more Russia-Ukraine conflict stories.)