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Shelling In Donetsk Rocks Cease-Fire In Ukraine

Pro-Russian militants take a break at a checkpoint close to where shelling continued Sunday between pro-Russian forces and the Ukrainian army in the village of Olenivka, some 30 kms south of Donetsk on the way to Mariupol, eastern Ukraine. (AFP/Getty Images)

The cease-fire in eastern Ukraine is being tested Sunday, with intense fighting reported near the airport in Donetsk Saturday and Sunday. An NPR team in that city was forced to flee the shelling.

Reporting from Donetsk, NPR's Eleanor Beardsley says she was with members of the international monitoring group the OSCE — Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe — when they nearly came under fire in Donetsk Sunday.

"We were in town, where a large store had been shelled. It was on fire. The whole street was smoky," Eleanor tells our Newscast unit. "And then all of a sudden, mortar rounds started booming around us. It was horrible. Everyone just scrambled."

"We just high-tailed it out of there," she says. "They were so close — we were told they were 200 yards away. So the shelling is now back in the city of Donetsk."

Ukraine's government forces say they've repelled attacks by pro-Russian separatists at the Donetsk airport, in violence that threatens the week-old peace.

In other news out of Ukraine:

  • Despite the fighting, a prisoner exchange of people held by the Ukraine and the rebels will go ahead as planned, Donetsk People's Republic First Vice-Premier Andrei Purgin says. According to ITAR-TASS, the exchange will use the formula "65 for 65."
  • New sanctions imposed by the U.S. and EU "will bring an abrupt halt to exploration of Russia's huge Arctic and shale oil reserves and complicate financing of existing Russian projects from the Caspian Sea to Iraq and Ghana," Reuters reports.
  • Giving new details about a prolonged August clash in Ilovaisk, in the Donetsk region, Minister of Defense Valerii Heletei says Ukraine lost 107 soldiers in the violence. Heletei also said "more than 300 Russian soldiers" died in fighting he blamed on an artillery attack on Ukrainian units as they withdrew with captured troops. That's according to Ukrainian News; the incident remains under investigation.
  • Voters in Crimea are taking part in Russia's elections today, as the area that was annexed by Russia in March chooses a parliament.
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