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More Fighting as Peace Talks Begin

They will end the shooting only when they erase us from the face of the planet.

Published: June 11, 2014 (Issue # 1815)



  • A woman walks by a gas station damaged by Mondays shelling in Slovyansk.
    Photo: Evgeniy Maloletka / AP

SLOVYANSK, Ukraine (AP) Government forces traded fire Monday with pro-Russian separatists who control an eastern Ukraine city, after the countrys new president announced daily negotiations were underway toward ending the conflict.

Loud booms and shelling were heard in downtown Slovyansk, where at least six buildings bore damage from shelling a day earlier. The city has been an epicenter of a nearly two-month standoff between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels, who have seized administrative buildings, police stations and border posts across the region.

The clashes came a day after President Petro Poroshenko announced that negotiations had started in Kiev between Ukraine, Russia, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE.

Poroshenko said the meeting focused on strengthening the porous Ukraine-Russia border, and said Ukraine must cease fire by the end of this week. While he promised the negotiators would meet daily until the crisis was resolved, he did not say whether results had been achieved on Sunday.

The OSCE, whose rotating presidency is currently held by Switzerland, said Heidi Tagliavini, a Swiss diplomat who has worked on crises in places like Chechnya and Georgia, was its representative in the negotiations. Poroshenkos office said Russias ambassador to Ukraine and the Ukrainian ambassador to Germany also took part.

On Monday, Ukraines acting defense minister, Mykhailo Koval, told journalists that Poroshenko was working toward bringing the conflict to an end in the quickest time period, according to the Interfax news agency. He did not give a specific date. Russia has repeatedly called for Ukraine to end its operation in the east, while Ukraine has blamed Russia for fomenting tensions in the region and backing the rebels materially.

Fighting resumed Monday in Slovyansk, where residents said at least six buildings including a petrol station, two shopping centers and two apartment buildings had been hit by mortars a day earlier.

Andriy, a local plainclothes policeman who wouldnt give his last name, was standing with other officers in uniform near the debris.

Yesterday the center of the city was hit the hardest, he said. There were a lot of injured people, and a lot of buildings were hit that havent been hit before.

Dozens of cars carrying civilians were seen leaving the city by road, and a bus with a sign in the windshield reading children left the city on Monday. The UN Refugee Agency estimated in late May that at least 10,000 people in Ukraine were internal refugees, a figure that has undoubtedly grown as both Ukrainian and Russian sides dig in. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Monday that his government was providing aid to Ukrainian refugees within Russia, who he previously estimated to number about 4,000.

They will end the shooting only when they erase us from the face of the planet, when nothing remains here but a flat space, said Svetlana, a 52-year-old resident of Slovyansk who would not give her last name. Only then the war will be finished.

Rebels have held the Ukrainian government responsible for the rising number of civilian casualties in the conflict, while the Kiev leadership says the insurgents have attacked civilians in order to foment resentment against the government.

Government officials say at least 200 people most of whom were civilians have been killed in the conflict so far.

The spokesman for Ukraines operation in the east, Vladislav Seleznev, wrote on Facebook late Sunday that the separatists were responsible for the shelling in Slovyansk.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Aug. 22


Get ready to pledge allegiance to the flag during National Flag Day, paying tribute to when, 23 years ago today, the iconic hammer-and-sickle was replaced with the tricolor that now flutters in the wind. Petersburgers will be treated to a free concert on Palace Square, a military parade and a culminating air show featuring Russias Russian Knights stunt pilots.



Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during todays Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the centers Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonights performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Centers Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodinas website for more details.



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