Slovyansk: Government forces traded fire on Monday with pro-Russian separatists who control an eastern Ukraine city, after the country`s new president announced daily negotiations were underway toward ending the conflict.
Loud booms and shelling were heard in downtown Slovyansk, where at least six buildings bore damage from shelling a day earlier.
The city has been an epicentre of a nearly two-month standoff between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels, who have seized administrative buildings, police stations and border posts across the region.
The clashes come a day after President Petro Poroshenko announced that negotiations had started in Kiev between Ukraine, Russia, and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Poroshenko said the meeting focused on strengthening the porous Ukraine-Russia border, and said Ukraine "must cease fire by the end of this week."
While he promised the negotiators would meet daily until the crisis was resolved, he did not say whether results had been achieved yesterday.
The OSCE, whose rotating presidency is currently held by Switzerland, said Heidi Tagliavini, a Swiss diplomat who has worked on crises in places like Chechnya and Georgia, was its representative in the negotiations.
Poroshenko`s office said Russia`s ambassador to Ukraine and the Ukrainian ambassador to Germany also took part.
Today, Ukraine`s acting defence minister, Mykhailo Koval, told journalists that Poroshenko was working toward bringing the conflict to an end "in the quickest time period," according to the Interfax news agency. He did not give a specific date.
Russia has repeatedly called for Ukraine to end its operation in the east, while Ukraine has blamed Russia of fomenting tensions in the region and backing the rebels materially.