Clashes in eastern Ukraine leave 19 dead

Kiev, Jan 30 (IANS) At least 19 people have been killed and several others wounded in clashes, since Wednesday, in eastern Ukraine, underscoring an escalation of tension in the nearly ten-month conflict, according to reports Thursday.

“The situation remains tense. In the past 24 hours, armed groups carried out 103 attacks on Ukrainian positions,” an official statement said.
Intense fighting was reported from the main rebel-controlled city of Donetsk and near the town of Debaltsevo, which lies on the highway linking Donetsk with another insurgent stronghold of Lugansk.
According to the Donetsk municipal council, overnight shelling in the city killed three civilians and wounded 10 others.
In Debaltsevo, a child and two women were killed, after pro-independence insurgents launched an assault on the Ukrainian military in the outskirts of the town using heavy artillery, a regional department of the Ukrainian interior ministry said in a statement.
As a result of the fighting across the restive region, five Ukrainian servicemen have been killed and 29 wounded since Wednesday, according to a Ukrainian military spokesman, Andriy Lysenko.
Senior insurgent commander, Eduard Basurin, said that seven soldiers from the rebel forces died and 41 others injured in the clashes.
The conflict in eastern Ukraine, which started in April 2014, made an increasingly violent shift earlier this month, when rebels launched an offensive against government troops after peace talks scheduled in the Kazakh capital of Astana were cancelled.
Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France, which were due to take part in the negotiations, postponed their meeting, pointing towards the lack of progress in implementation of the previous peace deal signed in September 2014 in Minsk, Belarus.
Insurgents have been long seeking direct talks with the Ukrainian government over the crisis, but Kiev has repeatedly rejected the calls.