The UN Security Council on Friday urged all sides in Ukraine to respect a Europe-brokered ceasefire, as the warring parties accused each other of endangering the truce.
UN political chief Jeffrey Feltman warned at an emergency Security Council meeting: "We are either looking at a return to a deepening intractable conflict or a momentary upsurge in parts of the conflict zone."We cannot afford either scenario."
Renewed fighting has killed almost 30 people over the past few days, including a small child, and sparked fears of a resumption of large-scale hostilities around the rebel stronghold of Donetsk, in violation of a ceasefire agreed in February.The Ukrainian military accused Moscow-backed rebels of targeting its positions Friday, while separatists said Kiev's forces had used Grad rockets against them.
"The adversary is actively using 120-millimeter mortar launchers, 122-millimeter guns and tanks firing virtually without a pause at our positions," Ukrainian army spokesman Andriy Lysenko said.Lysenko said four Ukrainian soldiers had been wounded over the past 24 hours, while separatist commander Eduard Basurin told reporters one rebel had been killed and four wounded.
Separately, one child was killed and three adults were wounded as a result of shelling of Telmanove, a village south of Donetsk, late Thursday, Basurin added.Ukraine has accused pro-Moscow rebels of going on the offensive to probe for weak spots in the army's defences, while separatist forces say they are merely defending themselves.
President Petro Poroshenko again warned of what he fears is the threat of a full-blown Russian invasion in the east of the country. Poroshenko said Russia had massed troops on Ukraine's border and claimed there are already thousands of troops in the rebel-held east. "The threat of Russian invasion is unprecedented," he warned.
In an address to parliament the previous day, Poroshenko had warned of a "colossal threat" of serious escalation, claiming more than 9,000 Russian soldiers were now in Ukraine.The Kremlin has accused Kiev of seeking to torpedo the fragile truce ahead of an EU summit in June which will discuss whether to extend sanctions against Russia that are set to expire in July.
The United States, the EU and Germany all expressed alarm over the renewed violence, with Washington warning Russia it would face new punishment if the crisis escalates.The Ukraine crisis will be high on the agenda of a G7 meeting that will be held in the Bavarian Alps without Russia this weekend.
Poroshenko said he would speak by phone with US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of the gathering. On Saturday, Poroshenko is also expected to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is to visit Kiev ahead of the G7 summit in a show of support.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called on Russia to stop supporting separatists, while a French diplomatic source suggested that rebels were behind the escalation."Those who provoke it are interested in there being an exacerbation of the situation ahead of the G7," the source said.
'Everything but submarines'
The Ukrainian army has admitted it resorted to the use of heavy artillery banned by the European-brokered peace agreement but accuses the rebels of also using prohibited weapons."From 6 pm (1500 GMT) on June 4 until midnight (2100 GMT) more than 40 instances of shelling were recorded," the military said.
The army reported shelling at several villages around Donetsk.The rebels also fired on a village in the rebel-held region of Lugansk and another near the government-controlled city of Mariupol, the Ukrainian military said.
Kiev and the West accuse Moscow of backing the Russian-speaking rebels with weapons, money and troops."The entire Russian military arsenal is already there, everything but submarines," Poroshenko said on Friday. More than 6,400 people have been killed in the fighting since April 2014, according to the United Nations.