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Rebels Release Video of Donetsk Airport in Ruins Hours After East Ukraine Truce Declared

Hopes of a cessation in fighting crumble as both rebels and Kiev-backed forces resume shelling around the embattled air space.

by Liz Fields
Dec 3 2014, 6:40pm

Photo by Dmitry Lovetsky/AP

Shortly after authorities announced a renewed truce between Ukraine's military and pro-Russian separatists in the country's east, a rebel group in the industrial city of Donetsk released new footage on Wednesday showing the extent of damage to the city's embattled international airport.

The video, released by the Patriotic Forces of Donbass, a rebel group linked to the Vostok Battalion, shows the wreckage of the former air space, which has been the site of intense and unrelenting fighting between separatists and Kiev-backed forces since April.

With sounds of mortar shells exploding in the background, the footage shows remnants of an airport sign and burned-out skeletons of buildings, including what was once an air traffic control tower.

Ukraine reaches ceasefire agreement with pro-Russia forces. Read more here.

A separatist group linked to the Vostok Battaltion, released footage of Donetsk's international airport on December 3.

The warring parties have accused each other of violating an alleged temporary ceasefire agreed upon at the battle site Tuesday.

"Unfortunately, the ceasefire is not being respected," Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council spokesman Andriy Lysenko told the AFP Wednesday, saying rebels had launched fresh strikes since the agreement. "Attacks on the airport and Ukrainian positions have resumed."

Meanwhile, Russian media reported Wednesday that officials from the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) claimed the truce was to take effect at 6pm local time, but that the Ukrainian military had already broken the agreement by shelling the airport and surrounding area.

"During the night we registered Ukrainian side's multiple violations, and over the past 24 hours they violated the ceasefire regime 62 times," the DPR Defense Ministry told TASS News Agency.

Kiev and eastern Ukraine rebels agree to truce, again, amid continued violence. Read more here.

The reported ceasefire in Donetsk was declared the same day the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) announced a renewed peace agreement between Kiev and rebels in the neighboring separatist-held region of Luhansk, which is to come into effect on December 5.

The OSCE had already been tasked with monitoring a September 5 truce signed in Minsk between the separatists, Kiev, and Moscow that established an 18-mile wide military buffer zone around the east and granted limited autonomy to the Russian speaking rebels.

Despite that agreement, both sides have committed numerous violations of that initial accord, and close to 1,000 people have died in the violence since it came into effect, according to figures from the United Nations. The death toll is included in the more than 4,300 people who have died in the last eight months since the start of the conflict.

The already-shaky Minsk pact was further unsettled after rebels from the country's east held their own leadership elections in early November, installing two pro-Russian militants as the heads of the self-declared republics in Donetsk and Luhansk. Kiev and the West have both denounced the ballot as "illegitimate," while Moscow has called for the people's vote to be respected.

Shortly after the new truce was announced, Jeff Mankoff, a Russian and Eurasian security expert at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, told VICE News that fighting in the region will likely slow as the brutal winter approaches in the region, but that it remains uncertain if the Luhansk ceasefire will hold, given the near daily violations of the Minsk agreement.

On Tuesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in Russia that Moscow could prevent further sanctions, which have crippled Russia's economy, if it backed away from supporting rebels in Ukraine's east. Russia has repeatedly denied that it is providing military support to the separatists.

'No more talks about ceasefire': Donetsk explosion officially shatters Ukraine's fragile détente. Read more here.

Follow Liz Fields on Twitter:@lianzifields

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