Fighting in Ukraine despite ceasefire; Russian convoy enters nation unchecked

Lorries, part of a Russian humanitarian convoy, cross the Ukrainian border on September 13.

Story highlights

  • Artillery shelling, explosions, gunfire reverberate in and around Donetsk's airport
  • Ukraine official: At least 1 Ukrainian soldier killed, 5 others were wounded
  • A convoy of 220 Russian vehicles go in, out of Ukraine without being inspected
  • FM Lavrov: "Process of establishing (a) durable peace is still in progress"
More artillery fire and shelling. More deaths. More disputes surrounding Russian convoys -- filled with aid, according to Moscow, though they were never checked by Ukrainian or International Red Cross officials -- that jetted in and out of eastern Ukraine.
And out of all this, more questions whether the ceasefire in Ukraine -- if you can still call it that -- struck after talks involving officials from Kiev, Moscow and rebel-held areas can hold.
In an interview with TV Tsentr, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the truce agreed upon in Minsk, Belarus, appeared to be holding generally and that Moscow, at least, is ready to work toward a long-term peace.
"Sporadic exchanges of fire occur on both sides, but the process of establishing (a) durable peace is still in progress," he said, according to parts of that interview published by the state-run Itar-Tass news agency.
Progress was hard to see Saturday in Donetsk, one of the biggest cities in the war-torn region and a hotbed for clashes.
Explosions and gunfire reverberated through the area around the city's airport, according to CNN crews on scene.
National Defense and Security Council spokesman Col. Andriy Lysenko said in a televised Kiev news briefing that a GRAD missile system was used in the attack on the airport, from three different points in the area.
Donetsk City Council reported that at least two homes in the area were hit.
The Kiev government claimed that Ukrainian military positions were also being targeted in at least 15 other spots around Donetsk and at least three around Luhansk, according to the Ukrinform state news agency.
A spokesman for Ukraine's national defense council said at least one Ukrainian solider had been killed and five others wounded since the announcement of the truce.
Russian convoy rolls in and out of Ukraine, unchecked
One of the biggest disputes Saturday in Ukraine didn't involve rockets, shells or bullets but rather -- according to Moscow -- desperately needed aid.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which has monitors in Ukraine, said that Russian vehicles began showing up late Friday near the border. By 7:45 a.m. Saturday (12:45 a.m. ET), all had crossed into Ukraine -- and all without having been checked for arms, ammunition or whatever else by Ukrainian border and customs officials.
According to an OSCE statement, a self-identified Russian official said the process "would not involve Ukrainian customs and border guard officers" near the Donetsk crossing.
A spokesman with Russia's Federal Security Service disputed such reports, according to RIA-Novosti, another official Russian news agency.
"Ukrainian border guards and customs officers were invited to run checks on the convoy at the 'Donetsk' checkpoint, but the Ukrainian side rejected the offer," the spokesman said.
The trucks carried 2,000 tons of food, generators, medicine and blankets went into the Luhansk region, Itar-Tass reported. Once there, the report said the convoy was greeted by people lining "the roads, waving hands and Russian flags, many women crying." They were back in Russia by 5:30 p.m.
This is the second time that Russia has sent a convoy into the region without the Kiev-based government's OK. It also happened in late August, raising concerns that the trucks main intent was not to relieve suffering by citizens but arm the pro-Russian separatists that Kiev blames for the violence and unrest.
Sanctions target Russia
A new round of EU sanctions against Russia over its actions in Ukraine came into effect Friday, targeting six companies and a number of Russian officials and separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine.
This was a day after U.S. President Barack Obama announced that, in coordination with the European Union, "we will intensify our coordinated sanctions on Russia in response to its illegal actions in Ukraine."
Russia in return accused the United States of once again escalating the crisis -- undermining the chances for peace there as well as the greater quest for "global stability."
Kiev and the West accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of arming and supporting the pro-Russia rebels, and of sending Russian troops into Ukraine.
A NATO military officer said Thursday that Russia has about 1,000 troops inside eastern Ukraine, down from a significantly higher number in recent weeks.
NATO also sees 20,000 more Russian troops aligned along the border, according to the NATO officer, who was not named according to standard practice in the organization.
Yatsenyuk: Values outweigh tanks
Speaking at Ukraine's biggest annual political forum, the YES Forum, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said that the latest round of sanctions are "the real threat" to the Russian economy.
"Putin's idea was to split the unity among EU member states and to split the unity between the U.S. and the EU. And at a certain period of time I was thinking even that he succeed. But no, he failed," he said.
"Values, EU values, and values of freedom and democracy are much stronger than Russian tanks and artillery and his autocratic regime."
Yatsenyuk claimed that Putin's ultimate goal was "not to just take Donetsk and Luhansk, his goal is to take the entire Ukraine.
"He cannot cope with an idea that Ukraine would be a part of the big EU family. He wants to restore the Soviet Union."
A day earlier, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told the same forum that the latest sanctions against Russia demonstrate Europe's unity and solidarity with Ukraine.
"It shows how close Ukraine is for every leader, every European country," said Poroshenko.