DONETSK: Ukraine dispatched top envoys to Washington and Brussels on Wednesday to secure help in the face of a surge in clashes with pro-Russian insurgents that killed eight more civilians and troops.
A one-month truce in Ukraine is teetering on the verge of collapse just weeks before a general election meant to reunify the country after six months of conflict in the east that has killed nearly 3,400 people.
The number of civilians dead from shelling and mortar attacks grew to 19 since the weekend when Donetsk authorities reported three additional deaths in the main rebel-held city overnight.
An Agence France-Presse team also saw the bodies of two victims of rocket fire that hit a supermarket and some residential buildings in a northeastern section of the half-deserted city that was once home to nearly a million people.
National Security and Defense Council spokesman Andriy Lysenko said fighters killed three and wounded 12 Ukrainian soldiers in renewed attacks.
Ukrainian authorities have reported the death of more than 100 troops and civilians since separatist leaders and Kiev signed a September 5 truce that was backed by both Moscow and European Union states.
But the United Nations human rights office said the post-ceasefire toll up to Monday may be as high as 331.
“Tragically, the political agreement is not being observed,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Valeriy Geletey said.
The crisis has torn at East-West relations and seen Russian President Vladimir Putin thrown into diplomatic isolation for what critics label a bid to break up his neighbor in retaliation for the ouster of a pro-Kremlin president in February.
Ukraine’s top policymakers traveled to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and European Union headquarters in Brussels as well as the main International Monetary Fund office in Washington to win further diplomatic and economic backing from Kiev’s new partners.
Ukrainian Central Bank chief Valeria Gontareva was, meanwhile, with International Monetary Fund (IMF) boss Christine Lagarde in the hope of speeding up the delivery of a $17.1-billion (13.5-billion-euro) loan and even expanding the amount.
Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told his cabinet that Gontareva would ask the IMF “to modify its program taking current realities into account.”
The two-year IMF arrangement is part of a global $27-billion package approved in April to help the new leaders avert a looming bankruptcy and pull Ukraine out of its third recession in six years.