Ukraine: Slovyansk under fire as negotiations take place in Kyiv

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Ukraine: Slovyansk under fire as negotiations take place in Kyiv

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Government forces traded fire with pro-Russian separatists in Slovyansk on Monday after Ukraine’s newly-elected president called for a ceasefire by the end of the week.

For nearly two months, the city has been at the centre of a standoff between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian rebels, some of whom have seized administrative buildings, police stations and border posts across the eastern region.

Large booms could reportedly be heard in the city centre, where some buildings bore damage from shelling the previous day.

“Yesterday, the centre of the city was hit the hardest. There were a lot of injured people, and a lot of buildings were hit that had not been hit before,” said one plain clothes police officer.

One woman added: “This will never end. They will only stop shooting when they wipe us from the face of the planet, when nothing remains here but an empty space.”

She did not specify who she was referring to.

On Sunday, President Petro Poroshenko announced daily negotiations were underway in Kyiv with a view to ending the conflict.

Ukraine, Russia, and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) are all represented at the talks, which Poroshenko said focussed on strengthening the Ukraine-Russia border.

He said Ukraine “must cease fire by the end of the week.”

Ukraine and Russia took part in last minute gas talks on Monday. Brokered by the European Union, the discussions are aimed at trying to prevent supply disruptions.

Russia has threatened to cut off gas supplies to neighbouring Ukraine if it does not pay its bills.