EU worried by new Ukraine fighting despite truce

The European Union expressed concern Thursday about new fighting in eastern Ukraine that has killed both civilians and soldiers despite a truce agreed last month between pro-Russian rebels and government troops.

The EU referred to the “tragic deaths” of several civilians Wednesday near a school in Donetsk as well as the deaths of many Ukrainian soldiers in recent weeks, mainly as a result of the shelling of Donetsk airport.

“We are concerned about the intensification, in spite of the ceasefire in place, of shooting and shelling in eastern Ukraine,” a spokesman for the EU’s diplomatic service said in a statement.

The statement called for “strict observation” of the September 5 ceasefire and implementation of a September 19 memorandum, which was designed to reinforce the truce by creating a demilitarised zone and leading to the withdrawal of all foreign fighters.

“Observation of the ceasefire is a necessary step for the much-needed restoration of law and order in the east of Ukraine,” it said.

A lasting truce is essential to paving the way for “a sustainable political solution, based on respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” it said.

The statement comes two days after Brussels announced that it had decided to maintain a tough package of economic sanctions against Russia on the grounds that peace efforts in Ukraine were not being fully implemented.

On Thursday pro-Russian rebels launched a fresh attack on Donetsk airport, which is held by Ukrainian troops, while the centre of the city was shelled for the first time since the truce, killing a Swiss Red Cross worker.

Nearly 70 Ukrainian troops and civilians — along with an undisclosed number of pro-Russian separatist gunmen who control swathes of eastern Ukraine — have been killed since Moscow and Kiev signed the 12-point peace pact on September 5.