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EURASIA >Calm returns to flashpoint Ukraine town as Trump pledges to help

AVDIIVKA, Ukraine

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Fighting subsided around a flashpoint Ukrainian town on Feb. 5 following a week-long surge in violence that prompted U.S. President Donald Trump to pledge to help bring peace to Europe’s backyard.

The Ukrainian military said in the morning that no soldiers had been killed in the past 24 hours for the first time since fighting over the blue-collar town of Avdiivka soared last week.

A total of 27 people have died in the battered town while eight more were killed in other parts of the war zone that covers the Russian-backed eastern separatist fiefdoms of Donetsk and Lugansk. 

AFP reporters on the scene said the streets of Avdiivka were quiet and no shelling could be heard from the outskirts of the town where both sides have their big guns stationed.

Ukrainian military spokesman Sergiy Klymenko told AFP that a pause in hostilities agreed by the two sides came into effect from 8:00 a.m. (6:00 a.m. GMT) but that is was only a verbal deal and not on paper.

Klymenko said the truce was aimed at allowing workers to repair broken power lines after many in the town of 25,000 spent days without power or heat.

Ukraine said overall the level of rebel shelling across the conflict zone had halved over the past day while the insurgents announced their frontline towns had not come under bombardment overnight.  

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s first conversation with the new US leader since his inauguration took place as the former Soviet republic worries that Trump is seeking to build a friendship with Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

In the call Trump promised to try to push for an end to the conflict in the east but appeared to stop short of offering the sort of staunch backing Ukraine enjoyed under the former U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration.

“We will work with Ukraine, Russia, and all other parties involved to help them restore peace along the border,” the White House quoted Trump as saying.

The White House further said that the two leaders had a “good call” but provided few other details except to say that a meeting between Trump and Poroshenko was being arranged for the future.

Poroshenko himself put a more positive spin on the high-profile conversation with a statement saying he thanked Trump for his “firm support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” 

The statement said that the two leaders expressed “deep concern” about the spike in fighting in Avdiivka and underscored the need for an “immediate cease-fire.” 

The Ukrainian leader’s office said also that they “spoke in favor of energizing dialogue at all levels with the new U.S. administration.”

February/05/2017

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