According to Reuters, fighting continues to rage between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels just east of the strategic port of Mariupol on Friday (September 5), despite the start of talks between envoys from Ukraine and Russia in Minsk on a cease-fire and peace plan.
Sustained mortar and artillery fire were also heard in Donetsk, the rebels' main stronghold in eastern Ukraine, from near the city's airport, which remains in government hands.
Ukraine says its forces are attempting to repel a large offensive by the pro-Russian rebels to take Mariupol, a port city of around 500,000 on the Sea of Azov crucial to Ukraine's steel exports. It stands about halfway between Russia and the Russian-annexed Crimean Peninsula.
COMMENT: As of September 3, as previously reported, President Poroshenko and the Prime Minister were NOT in agreement in terms of negotiating a cease-fire with Russian President Vladimir Putin who by now is known for telling people anything to get what he wants.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Thursday (September 4) he would order a cease-fire if negotiations began in Minsk between envoys from Ukraine, the pro-Russian separatist leadership, Russia and Europe's OSCE security watchdog.
Yet, a Ukrainian officer told REUTERS in Mariupol after the talks had started: "Our operations are continuing as scheduled until further orders."
Ukrainian officials and commanders said their forces were pounding rebel positions to the east of the city and denied separatist claims that their forces had entered Mariupol.
"(This claim) is not true. We have even driven them back from the positions they held before," said Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council.
Russia denies sending troops and weapons into Ukraine, despite what NATO says is overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
A Ukrainian military spokesman told a daily news briefing in Kiev that about 2,000 Russian servicemen had been killed thus far inside the Ukraine.
"A ceasefire would be a disaster, we would lose everything. By fighting, we can resist the invasion and send them back. With a ceasefire, they will consolidate and carry on after a while," said Taras, a Ukrainian soldier.View gallery
Another soldier who gave his name as Mykola said Poroshenko--who was attending the second day of a NATO Summit--would be "betraying the country" if he backed a peace plan now: "If he goes for a peace plan, then all these dead and wounded and exiled and all the homes burned and jobs lost and money lost means it was all for nothing."
"I doubt Ukraine would go for any ceasefire. Poroshenko may announce it for the army, but there are also the Kolomoisky battalions," said Denis Tikhinov, 22, who worked for a computer servicing firm before it shut down because of the fighting.
On Friday, people queued to get water from cisterns, to sign up for humanitarian aid and to withdraw money from the cash machine of one of the few banks still working in Donetsk, which had a pre-war population of about 1 million.
"I have no hope. Poroshenko is a traitor, he makes promises, but he's just lying to the people," said pensioner Lidia.