Combat in Ukraine flares again following a lull

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Combat between government troops and rebels in eastern Ukraine has flared up again following a lull, featuring some of the heaviest fighting in a year.

The fighting broke out during a snowstorm overnight Tuesday and has not abated since, according to observers on the ground.

Skirmishes between forces have been common, but heavy artillery barrages have become the thickest since a flare-up last February.

out in the midst of a snowstorm overnight Tuesday and has continued unabated since, the observers say. While skirmishes are common, the heavy artillery barrages have been the thickest since a flare-up in February.

Ukrainian authorities linked the escalation to the Russian military’s decision to withdraw officers from a joint Russian and Ukrainian liaison group that had assisted in monitoring the shaky cease-fire deal, known as the Minsk 2 agreement.

The Russian Foreign Ministry placed the blame for that on Ukraine, saying the Ukrainians had been intimidating the officers and that “all responsibility for possible consequences lies fully on the Ukrainian side.”

Since then, a Ukrainian village and a town have been hit with rocket-artillery barrages, wounding eight people and damaging about 50 homes, and at least eight Ukrainian soldiers have been killed. The fighting has also drawn perilously close to a water-treatment plant that stores poisonous chlorine gas, alarming Western officials.

The breakdown in the peacekeeping effort began when the Russians withdrew from the Joint Center for Ceasefire Control and Coordination. That is the organization that had helped to monitor the cease-fire and allowed Ukraine’s military to communicate with rebel commanders through Russian officers who acted as intermediaries. [source]

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