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Ukraine, the rebels accuse each other of new bombardments

MOSCOW – Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed rebels in the east of the country traded fresh accusations of shelling and other ceasefire violations on Friday, heightening tensions amid fears of an invasion Russian.

Kiev and the rebels blamed each other for the escalation after artillery and mortar attacks on Thursday, raising fears that Russia, which has massed more than 100,000 troops near Ukrane’s borders, may be involved.

The Kremlin said on Thursday it was “deeply concerned” about the outbreak in Ukraine and was monitoring the situation closely. The United States has said Russia is looking for a pretext for war after its demands for Ukraine to drop its candidacy for the NATO military alliance were rebuffed.

Russia’s Interfax news agency reported that the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic said the shelling targeted the village of Petrivske in the breakaway region at 05:30 (0330 GMT).

Another self-declared rebel republic, Luhansk, reported several incidents of mortar fire Friday morning.

The Kyiv government said the rebels fired four times with artillery or mortars on Friday. In addition, the Ukrainian army declared Thursday evening that it did not intend to launch an offensive on the positions of the rebels.

Kiev and pro-Russian separatists have been at war for eight years and the ceasefire between the sides is regularly broken, but the intensity of the fighting has increased dramatically this

the week.

Russia’s lower house of parliament voted this week to ask President Vladimir Putin to recognize the two Russian-backed breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent, while the European Union told Moscow not to follow up.

(Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv; editing by Kim Coghill and Stephen Coates)

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