2014-12-11 08:05:00

Ukraine: fighting continues amid calls to respect cease-fire

(Vatican Radio ) Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has urged Russia to withdraw from the region, amid concerns that fighters of the troubled Russian republic of Chechnya have joined pro-Russian separatists as well as Ukrainian government forces. Poroshenko asked Russia to in his words "stop the fire", release hostages, withdraw troops from Ukrainian territory and close the border. He added that these measures would lead "to peace and stability" in Ukraine within three weeks. Both sides have already been engaged in a one-day truce in a bid to revive peace talks and a September ceasefire deal in war-torn eastern Ukraine. Poroshenko made the comments during his ongoing three-day visit to Australia, which has a significant ethnic Ukrainian population. 

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been a sharp critic too of Russia since Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down in July over rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine. The tragedy which killed nearly 300 people, including 38 Australians.


Abbott said Russia must honor what he called "a little-respected cease-fire agreement." Yet the efforts have been complicated by evidence that at least hundreds of seasoned Chechen fighters joining pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. What is known as the “death unit” has made a former tourist camp on the outskirts of the rebel-held city of Donetsk into its base. “The people need our help and we are remaining here, and we’ve been here since May,” said their leader, nicknamed stinger. He claims some 300 volunteers have battlefield experience from 10 to 20 years starting from 1995. About "70 percent are special forces from various structures. Most of them, some 75 percent, have been injured before and received state medals,” he added. 


Yet, Chechen fighters have also been discovered among Ukrainian government troops in a conflict that has killed more than 4,300 people. The West may be hoping that a new ceasefire will help ease international tensions with Moscow amid ongoing military confrontations sparked by Russia's intervention in Ukraine. In one of the latest known incidents, the Dutch air force released a video of the moment it is said to have intercepted Russian military aircraft over the Baltic sea on Monday. Additionally the NATO military alliance also sent patrol planes to help Britain search the waters off the west coast of Scotland after an alleged Russian submarine’s periscope was spotted.

That hunt comes just one month after a similar operation in Swedish waters which revived fears of the Cold War-era.

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