Kiev (AFP) – At least two people were killed Sunday in an explosion during a march pro-Kiev to Kharkiv, a region close to the war zone in eastern Ukraine, where the army and pro-Russian rebels have announced the upcoming start of the withdrawal of heavy weapons.
Tension also mounted around Mariupol, the last major city in the east of Kiev controlled located in the south of the front line which could become the next target of a rebel offensive, after taking by them this week railway node Debaltseve.
Large industrial and university city with nearly 1.5 million residents, Kharkiv was in shock after the explosion, which occurred during a patriotic march and was once described as “terrorist” by the police.
The explosion of a device craft filled with metal pieces and hidden in the snow beside the Avenue Zhukov there killed at least two people – a policeman and a militant pro-European – and a dozen injured, according to official figures
The explosion occurred shortly after 1100 GMT, when beginning to Kiev another solidarity march with Ukraine with the participation of Ukrainian and European leaders including President of the European Council Donald Tusk, German presidents Polish, Lithuanian, Slovak, Georgian and Moldovan.
Many saw the tragedy of Kharkiv an attempt to intimidate the pro-Kiev forces in the Russian-speaking town some 200 kilometers from the war zone and only thirty miles from the Russian border.
The incident comes as Ukraine and the pro-Russian separatists were slightly ahead in implementing the peace plan for the conflict in the East that killed more than 5,700 dead in ten months
After making the exchange of the most massive prisoners of war from the beginning of the year. – 139 Ukrainian soldiers and 52 rebel fighters – Kiev and rebels announced on Sunday the start of the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front line, according to the peace plan signed Minsk 2 there ten days in the Belarusian capital
-. Two attacks of tanks near Mariupol -.
No information on the time or the place where the withdrawal will begin, however, has been unveiled
According to the agreements Minsk 2, both parties must withdraw “all heavy weapons” to establish a buffer zone with a depth of 50 to 140 km depending on the type of weapons.
These early progress in the implementation of the peace plan have however, been tarnished by new fighting near Mariupol coveted by the rebels that its decision would create a land bridge with Ukrainian Crimean peninsula in March annexed by Russia.
prisoners “This morning, there were two attacks of tanks near Mariupol “and” fighting continues, “said the mid-day a Ukrainian military spokesman Andrii Lysenko.
He also said that a convoy Russian army military – including 50 trucks loaded with ammunition according to him – had entered Ukraine and headed Novoazovsk, rebel base at about thirty kilometers from Mariupol
Kiev and the West accuse. Russia to support separatist by providing weapons and troops that Moscow vehemently denies.
The German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, warned against advanced separatists in Mariupol judging that it would constitute a “clear violation of the agreements” in Minsk, in an interview with German newspaper Bild.
If the intensity of fighting has decreased overall since Saturday in eastern Ukraine, Ukrainian soldier was killed and three others injured in last 24 hours, Mr. Lysenko said.
In Donetsk, separatist stronghold, the AFP journalists based in the city heard the morning intense artillery fire, which seemed from rebel positions in the north of the city.
violations of the cease-fire by the rebels particular provoked the ire of Washington said Saturday think of “serious” sanctions against Russia for its alleged support for separatists.
A senior French official who was involved with other European leaders Sunday at the “dignity of work” in Kiev also admitted the possibility of additional EU sanctions against Moscow.
“If the Minsk agreements were not respected, as had already been decided before the sanctions would be maintained by the EU and could even be reinforced” , told reporters the French Secretary of State for European Affairs Harlem Désir.
The application of these agreements allow for against reaching “a lasting peace between Ukraine and Russia “he said.