Fighting flared near an airport in eastern Ukraine on Saturday in breach of a fragile eight-day cease-fire as the Ukrainian prime minister accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of planning to destroy his country.
Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the prime minister, said only membership in NATO would enable Ukraine to defend itself from external aggression.
On Saturday afternoon, a Reuters reporter heard heavy artillery fire in northern districts of
Donetsk, the largest city of the region with a pre-war population of about 1 million. He saw plumes of black smoke above the airport, which is in government hands. The city is controlled by the rebels.
A cease-fire negotiated by envoys from Ukraine, Russia, the separatists and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe watchdog has been in place in eastern Ukraine since Sept. 5 and is broadly holding despite regular but sporadic violations, especially in key flash points such as Donetsk.
The violence in eastern Ukraine followed the takeover of the Crimean Peninsula in March by Russia. Before the cease-fire, officials in Kiev accused Russia of sending troops and tanks to support pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk and elsewhere. Putin says Russia has the right to defend its ethnic kin beyond its borders, though Moscow denies arming the rebels and helped broker the cease-fire with Kiev.