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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Eastern Ukraine Shelling Kills Government Troops

by VOA News January 09, 2015

Ukraine's military says four its soldiers have been killed and eight wounded as a result of shelling by Russia-backed separatists over the past 24 hours.

Military spokesman Andrei Lysenko said Friday that the rebels had fired rockets and mortars at government forces more than 30 times during that period. He linked the upsurge in shelling to the arrival in eastern Ukraine of, in his words, 'another so-called humanitarian convoy' from Russia.

Ukrainian authorities accuse Russia of using the convoys to supply the separatists with weapons under the guise of humanitarian aid, a charge Russian authorities deny.

The Donetsk city administration reported on its website Friday that shelling had wounded one person and caused power outages in several districts.

City authorities said earlier in the day that two civilians had been killed and seven wounded on Thursday when four districts came under intense shelling. It said a number of apartment buildings were damaged in those attacks.

The latest upsurge in fighting comes ahead of a meeting on the Ukraine crisis between the leaders of Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia – provisionally scheduled to be held in Kazakhstan's capital Astana on January 15.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday that sanctions imposed by the European Union on Russia for supporting the separatists in eastern Ukraine could be lifted only if a ceasefire agreement between Kyiv and the rebels is fully implemented.

Under the agreement, signed last September, both sides agreed to a cease-fire and the withdrawal of fighters and military hardware from areas of eastern Ukraine controlled by the pro-Russian separatists.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, visiting Riga, Latvia, said Thursday that she had seen 'some limited positive signs on the Russian side' over the Ukraine crisis, as well as a 'different Russian attitude.' Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said earlier that he sensed Russia wants a softening of sanctions – to create, in his words, 'an opening we can use.'

More than 1,300 people have been killed since the cease-fire agreement was signed. In all, more than 4,700 people have been killed since the separatists launched a rebellion last April.

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