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Despite Truce, Heavy Shelling Resumes In Donetsk

Unmarked military vehicles parked on a road outside the separatist rebel-held eastern Ukrainian town of Snizhne, 50 miles from Donetsk on Saturday. Ukraine has accused Moscow of sending in more weapons and supplies to the rebels.
Mstyslav Chernov

The fiercest fighting in weeks has broken in eastern Ukraine, in a clear violation of a Sept. 5 ceasefire deal, as artillery and rocket fire rained down in and around the airport in the contested city of Donetsk.

Pro-Russian separatists appear to have renewed a push to seize the airport, nearly the last remnant in the region still controlled in part by the Ukrainian army.

The Associated Press writes: "Artillery explosions roared throughout the early hours of Sunday in Donetsk, [quieting] only after sunrise. A city council statement said four residential buildings were destroyed, but it didn't give information on casualties."

NPR's Corey Flintoff says the pockmarked runways and bombed out buildings at the Donetsk airport render it of little value to aviation "but it is symbolically important to both sides in the conflict."

The Ukraine military accuses Russia of sending more heavy weapons and supplies to the separatists, who have declared the region an independent republic. Russia denies that it has any military role in the region.

The AP says that on Saturday, its reporters in the region "saw scores of military vehicles moving near Donetsk and farther to the east. Many of the unmarked vehicles were towing artillery."

Update at 4:00 p.m. ET: U.S. 'Concerned' Over Intensified Fighting

National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said in a statement that the U.S. is concerned over the latest fighting. She said "Russian backed and supplied" separatists were moving "large convoys of heavy weapons and tanks" into eastern Ukraine.

"We continue to call on all sides to strictly adhere to the cease-fire," she said. "Any attempt by separatist forces to seize additional territory in eastern Ukraine would be a blatant violation of the Minsk agreements.

"We reiterate our call on the Russian Federation to honor all of the commitments it made in Minsk, including ending its military supply to the separatists and the withdrawal of all of its troops and weapons from Ukraine," Meehan said.

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Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
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