KIEV: Fighting raged in Ukraine’s east yesterday when separatists tried to break through the lines of government forces near the border with Russia and a tentative step towards agreeing conditions for a ceasefire failed.
Eleven more Ukrainian soldiers were killed in the space of 24 hours while hundreds of bodies of rebels were found in shallow graves in a former separatist stronghold, the army said.
Fighting has escalated sharply since Friday with the downing of a Ukrainian military transport plane and the deaths of civilians in air and artillery attacks on residential areas on both sides of the border, which Russia and Ukraine have blamed on each other.
Accusations of direct Russian involvement in the three and a half month conflict, in which hundreds have died, is being pushed hard by Ukraine to persuade the United States and its European allies to impose tougher sanctions on Russia.
In telephone conversations with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, late on Tuesday, President Petro Poroshenko again set out evidence of fighters crossing into Ukraine from Russia with heavy military equipment, his website said.
Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk levelled harsh criticism at Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Everything which is happening in Ukraine has been planned by Russia since 2004. Putin has a clear plan and that is to destroy Ukraine and establish his influence over post-Soviet space,” he said in a public speech carried by his website.