Intense fighting continued to rock areas around the east Ukrainian city of Donetsk and the port city of Mariupol on Monday night, resulting in the death of six Ukrainian soldiers, the highest toll since the ceasefire agreement known as Minsk II came into force, on Feb. 15. Foreign ministers of the Normandy Four met in Berlin to search for ways to get the fragile, and repeatedly broken, agreement back on track.
"Finally, we agreed to establish four working groups. All this will help to improve the humanitarian situation in the east of the country and to restore its infrastructure,” said German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Tuesday. "Today's meeting confirmed how difficult the situation is. The way will be long, but if we do not follow it, the situation may get out of our control."
All sides agreed to create four working groups: political process, humanitarian issues, economic affairs and rehabilitation. The groups are expected to be assembled in the coming week.
The statement from the four ministers, which was made available by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, noted that numerous violations of the ceasefire had occured over the past two months and called for the “withdrawal of mortars and heavy weapons below 100mm [caliber] as well as all types of tanks” and called on “all sides to stop fighting and demonstrate their commitment to fully implementing the ceasefire and conclude the withdrawal of heavy weapons definitely.”
However, as the meeting got underway last night, reports began to emerge that fighting had intensified in the region around Donetsk. According to a Ukrainian military spokesperson, six Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 12 wounded. One rebel soldier was also reportedly killed and five others wounded.
The clashes come just one day after the OSCE reported it had witnessed over 1,100 explosions in areas around the rebel-held city, and hundreds of instances of shelling further south in the port city of Mariupol.