Deadly attacks In Donetsk test Ukraine peace deal

After a series of attacks by pro-Moscow militia, Ukraine’s prime minister has accused Russia of failing to honor the cease-fire agreement signed on September 5. At least nine Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in the last two days. Tentative peace deal appears to be holding despite the violence.

Putting new equipment to the test – soldiers from Ukraine’s National Guard opened fire on a test model of a new armored vehicle Tuesday, at an army base outside Kyiv. Commanders hope it will give them more protection on patrol during anti-separatist operations in eastern Ukraine.

Watching the demonstration was Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. He accused Russia of failing to honor the cease-fire deal signed in Minsk in September.

“A cease-fire is when nobody is attacking and nobody is dying,” he said, adding that “Russia signed 12 points on the Minsk memorandum and should fulfill every point of it. Words and deeds are too far apart in Russia.”

Pro-Moscow rebels launched an offensive against government forces at Donetsk airport Monday – a key battleground in recent weeks. The Kremlin denies it’s giving the rebels military support.

One condition of the cease-fire is being met – the exchange of prisoners held by both sides. But Kyiv accuses the separatists of stretching the peace deal to the breaking point. Colonel Andriy Lysenko is spokesman for Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council.

“Over 1,000 hostages have been released during the cease-fire, adding that they are seeing more shootings and more attacks by separatists and pro-Russian rebels,” he said.

In a provocative move, residents tore down a statue of former Soviet ruler Vladimir Lenin in the eastern city of Kharkiv Sunday. Pro-Russians in the city had defended the statue earlier this year when several others were being destroyed across Ukraine.  Leonid Onischenko was among the crowd cheering the demolition.

“It was an insult having the statue here”, he said. “We are an independent country and we have a monument to the former leader of the neighboring state, which attacked us at least three times in the last century, and now in this century.”

A column of tanks and armored vehicles – free of insignia, except for the flag of the separatists’ self-styled Donetsk People’s Republic – was seen traveling through Makiivka on the outskirts of Donetsk Monday. Kyiv says only Russia could be supplying such military hardware.