Heavy fighting outside Mariupol despite launch of Ukrainian peace talks

Heavy fighting outside Mariupol despite launch of Ukrainian peace talks
Scores of casualties were reported as eastern Ukrainian militias were allegedly closing in on Mariupol port hours before a ceasefire pledged by President Poroshenko was announced. Authorities say they repelled the attacks and the city is calm.

The fighting near Mariupol has cost the cost the lives of seven civilians, including two children, during the two days, Konstantin Batozsky, adviser to the Head of Dnipropetrovsk Region, said on Friday.

“Yesterday, the fighting led to the deaths of four civilians, including two combine operators involved in harvesting. Today, three civilians were killed (including two children). A total of 23 people were injured,” Batozsky wrote on his Facebook page.

On Friday, Shirokino village, some 20 kilometers west of Mariupol, remained the main battleground in the Donetsk Region, with “no fighting taking place within Mariupol’s city limits,” Batozsky said at a press conference.

The cameraman for RT’s Ruptly video agency confirmed that fighting is currently taking place outside Mariupol – in Shirokino village.


Batozsky stressed that the Ukrainian army has enough personnel and military equipment to prevent the militias from capturing Mariupol.

However, the militias told the RIA-Novosti news agency that a group of their armored personnel carriers and tanks has already penetrated Mariupol, with street battles taking place in the city.

“Our squad entered the Talakovka and Sartana districts. They are distant from the Vostochny neighborhood where the fighting between the militias and the security forces is taking place – so the squad was able enter Mariupol without any resistance,” they said.

Mariupol is one Ukraine’s major ports and the second largest city in the Donetsk Region, with a population of 450,000 people.

It’s currently the main stronghold of the Ukrainian army in the area and hosts the Kiev-appointed authorities of the Donetsk Region.

Mariupol was surrounded by the militias during their counter offensive against the government troops, which began on August 24, with heavy fighting going on for the last two days.

On Thursday, the Ukrainian military lost at least 50 troops in the fighting near Mariupol, a sea port on the southeastern coast of Ukraine, the People’s Republic of Donetsk (DNR) militias said. Three soldiers from the Ukrainian National Guard were taken prisoner, they added.

According to the DNR militias, they also destroyed four armored personnel carriers, 11 automotive vehicles, a mortar and a warehouse containing fuel and lubricants.

Meanwhile, the National Guard’s press-service claimed that they managed to eliminate a column of self-defense forces’ armored vehicles when it was attempting to make its way to the Shirokino village.

The destroyed column consisted of five tanks, three self-propelled guns, a Grad artillery rocket system and heavily-armed personnel, the National Guard said.

The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) also spoke about the deteriorating situation in Mariupol and the risk of military confrontation in the city.

“The situation in Mariupol and the surrounding area raises concern due to increased military activity, primarily to the east of Mariupol city,” they wrote in a report from September 4.

According to SMM, heavy fighting was taking place near the villages of Shirokino (24km east of Mariupol ) and Bezymiannoye (34km east of Mariupol city).

The locals informed the observers that they had heard about 50-60 explosions as Shirokino “was shelled and that there had been casualties.”

The electric power station in the village was destroyed and subsequently the village was left without electricity, the SMM added.


The fighting comes as another round of peace talks on Ukraine’s crisis, involving Kiev authorities, E. Ukraine self-defense forces, Russia and the OSCE, kicked off in Minsk, Belarus.

On Friday, the sides agreed a ceasefire, which would reportedly come into force on the same day, starting 6 pm local time (15:00 GMT).

During the talks, the sides also hope to achieve the unconditional exchange of prisoners, monitoring of the situation under the authority of the OSCE, and the withdrawal of Kiev troops from the residential areas of Donetsk and Lugansk Republics.

Ukraine has been engulfed in violent internal conflict since April, when Kiev’s military began its crackdown on the southeastern regions of the country.

According to United Nations’ estimates, over 2,249 people have been killed so far and more than 6,033 wounded in the fighting in eastern Ukraine.

The number of internally displaced Ukrainians has reached 260,000, with another 814,000 finding refuge in Russia, the UN said.