Ukrainian forces repelled two fresh assaults by pro-Russia rebels on the airport in the eastern city of Donetsk on Tuesday, a military spokesman said, as fighting for the strategic site showed no sign of ending despite a cease-fire signed nearly a month ago.
European Union diplomats, meanwhile, decided to keep sanctions on Russia in place while the truce deal is still being implemented.
The spokesman, Col. Andriy Lysenko, said the army had fought off the attacks with no casualties. A rebel representative told Interfax news agency that they had managed to take some of the airport’s territory.
The airport—the last part of the rebel stronghold of Donetsk held by government forces—has become the center of battles in recent days. Despite the violence there and elsewhere, officials in Kiev and Moscow have said the cease-fire signed Sept. 5 is mostly holding.
Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko agreed to the deal under pressure from Russia, which the West and Ukraine accuse of sending in troops to support the rebels—a charge the Kremlin denies. Mr. Poroshenko has come under criticism from other politicians who say he has yielded too much to Russian power.
Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Tuesday that Russia has no intention of resolving the conflict. “Rhetorically it’s all fine, but deeds fail to match words,” he was quoted by Interfax as saying.
EU diplomats kept up sanctions on Russia, as expected, but could propose to amend or repeal them “if the situation on the ground so warrants,” said Maja Kocijancic, the EU’s spokeswoman for foreign affairs.
Another agreement on Sept. 19 called for a buffer zone between the separatists and Ukraine’s military. Col. Lysenko said officials from Russia, Ukraine and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe are working on creating the zone, which he said would reduce the intensity of clashes.
Even as fighting has eased, Russia and Ukraine are still involved in an economic standoff. The two countries came to a tentative deal last week amid a dispute over unpaid gas bills, but the details have still not been worked out.