Civilians prepare to flee Ukraine conflict
Ukrainian Soviet-era BTR-70s armoured-personnel carriers in Donbass around the start of the conflict in 2014. Source: Wikimedia
The fighting, which killed at least eight Ukrainian soldiers and three pro-Russian troops, shifted the front lines by only a few hundred metres in the so-called grey zone.
The UN Security Council has warned of a “dangerous deterioration” in border area with Russia and called on both sides to halt the violence.
The council said the fighting was having a “severe impact” on civilians.
The US helps to train and equip Ukrainian soldiers but is also trying to boost ties with Moscow.
The Ukrainian army said it advanced in at least two places to rebuff rebel attacks while the separatists blame Kiev’s forces for the violence.
Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Ministry called on western governments to intervene diplomatically.
“For the last two days, the Russian occupation forces carried out massive attacks across the line,” firing with rocket artillery, heavy mortars and other long-range weapons, it said. European monitors reported heavy shelling of Avdiivka on the frontline from Sunday.
“Given harsh weather conditions and the continuing shelling by the militants, the humanitarian situation in the area continues to deteriorate,” the statement said.
“The current escalation in Donbass is a clear indication of Russia’s continued, blatant disregard of its commitments under the Minsk agreements with a view of preventing the stabilisation of the situation.”
Kiev said it was preparing to evacuate the town’s 16,000 to 22,000 residents, most of whom are without water or power in freezing conditions.
The Ukraine delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross also tweeted that there was no water, electricity or heating in the town and the temperature was minus 18C. “Hostilities continue and people start to lose hope,” it said.
The Security Council statement did not raise objections from Russia, a permanent member, which has blocked previous statements put forward by Ukraine.
More than 9,700 people have died in the conflict since 2014 when Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula. Pro-Russian militias then launched an insurgency along the border although Russia implausibly continues to deny backing the rebels.
Ukrainian forces say the latest outbreak began when rebels attacked government-held Avdiivka.
Ukraine says that if the evacuation goes ahead, up to 8,000 people could be moved a day.
“Everything is going bad,” a Avdiivka resident calling herself “Nadiya” told the BBC.
“People are scared and try to go out. It’s very cold. There are bread queues. Only a few shops are open.”