Kiev and rebel troops in eastern Ukraine on September 5 agreed a ceasefire, “all to all” prisoner of war exchange and humanitarian aid access to the area hit by months-long fierce fighting that has claimed the lives of over 2,500 people.
Several blasts were heard in the center of Donetsk as it was heavily shelled, RT Arabic correspondent Anna Knishenko reported from the eastern Ukrainian city.
A fierce fire has started at Donetsk Airport, RIA Novosti reported. Huge plumes of smoke are rising above the facility, and the wind is carrying the smoke towards the city, even visible in the city center.
Self-defense fighters assume that the source is a storage facility for combustibles and lubricants.
The blaze comes after Ukrainian forces controlling the airport reportedly carried out missile strikes targeting Donetsk’s residential areas, with the self-defense forces forced to respond.
On Wednesday, at least nine people were killed in strikes on a school: six at a bus stop, and three in the school itself.
Shelling of civilian targets by Kiev forces in eastern Ukraine must not be further allowed, Russian President Vladimir Putin told German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a phone conversation late on Wednesday, the Kremlin's press service stated.
“The importance of compliance to the Minsk protocol was stressed, especially concerning the ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weapons, and the effective monitoring of the situation by the OSCE,” the statement added.
The two leaders also agreed they would both prefer speedy progress on the Ukrainian gas situation.
There were earlier reports of up to 11 people killed following artillery shelling in Donetsk, after a bus station and a school were hit, RIA Novosti reported, citing Deputy Prime Minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, Andrey Purgin.
A key point in the ceasefire deal in eastern Ukraine, a full exchange of prisoners of war, has been perverted by Kiev, presumably because the self-proclaimed republics have captured significantly more prisoners of war than the government forces.
To ‘compensate’ for the short quantity of POWs Kiev needs for exchange, Ukrainian law enforcement are arresting ordinary citizens and proclaiming them ‘separatists’ in order to trade them for their own men. To complicate identification of the persons being exchanged, the prisoners are deliberately stripped of all their documents, so the deception can’t be detected until after the exchange has already taken place.
“No one can say for sure how many prisoners are being held by each side,” RT’s Maria Finoshina reports.
Over 460 Kiev army troops have been released in the past two weeks, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said.
One of the biggest monuments to the Bolshevik Revolution leader Vladimir Lenin has been toppled in Ukraine’s second largest city of Kharkov by “activists” who had gathered in their hundreds to watch it being sawn down waiting to get pieces as souvenirs.
Donetsk and Kiev have exchanged more war prisoners. A total 30 Ukrainian army troops and 60 militia fighters have been handed over to their respective sides. Initially, it was planned that both Kiev and Donetsk exchange in accordance with the “40 for 40” formula.
Kiev authorities have sent six armored vehicles, eight trucks and three minibuses to the Russian border in the Donbass region, the Ukrainian Border Guard Service said in a statement.
“It’s the first batch of equipment, which will soon be supplied to the Ukrainian-Russian border… in order to strengthen the border units," the statement said.
A total of 20 APCs have been recently repaired and allocated to the Ukrainian border guard service. The government also bought 50 new trucks for the agency.
Military representatives from Kiev and the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics met in the Ukrainian town of Gorlovka, in the Donetsk Region. They were discussing the practical aspects of implementing the Minsk ceasefire agreement, which includes the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front line. Officials from the Russian military and the OSCE were present as mediators.
The authorities in Kiev did not give orders to use weapons against civilians in the east of the country. Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk said in New York, as the death toll in Ukraine's conflict soared past 3,000, according to top UN human rights official Ivan Simunovic.
Answering a question from Human Rights Watch as to why Kiev used artillery and other weapons against civilians in the east of the country, Yatsenyuk said that "the army did not give such an order." He also claimed that the Ukrainian authorities "are ready to start an investigation, if anyone has any information about these cases," and suggested HRW send evidence to the authorities in Kiev.