Mariupol awaits the storm as Ukraine and Russia talk peace

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Mariupol awaits the storm as Ukraine and Russia talk peace

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It was a relatively quieter day on the ground in eastern Ukraine as diplomacy was pursued elsewhere.

However in Mariupol residents know there is a powerful force hunkered down just over the hills with the city of half a million in its sights. Defences are being dug, and peaceful demonstrations being organised in support of Kyiv, but many are also leaving.

Fighting continued some distance away, with black columns of smoke rising to remind people what may be in store if the pro-Russians attack. The Ukrainian coastguard is attempting to provide coastal support, but it is vulnerable to artillery fire.

The second front opened up on the coast may be, according to some Western analysts, the launch pad for the establishment of a land bridge with Crimea, seized earlier in the conflict. Pro-Russian forces could then sweep on to Odessa.

Many in Donetsk want to see that. No lovers of Kyiv in the best of times many people here are outraged at the shelling they have had to endure in their homes. There was more on Thursday, and more civilian casualties. OSCE observers had to scurry for cover as they attempted to monitor the fighting. Their role will be crucial in any ceasefire.