Ukraine lobbies NATO, IMF as deaths mount despite truce

Ukraine dispatched top envoys to Washington and Brussels on Wednesday to secure help in the face of a surge in clashes with pro-Russian insurgents that saw six more die overnight.

Kiev: Ukraine dispatched top envoys to Washington and Brussels on Wednesday to secure help in the face of a surge in clashes with pro-Russian insurgents that saw six more die overnight.

A one-month truce in Ukraine is teetering on the verge of collapse just weeks before a general election meant to reunify the country after the loss of more than 3,300 lives in half a year of warfare in the separatist east.

The number of civilians killed in shelling and mortar attacks grew to 17 since the weekend when Donetsk authorities reported three additional deaths in the main rebel-held city.

National Security and Defence Council spokesman Andriy Lysenko said fighters killed three and wounded 12 Ukrainian soldiers in renewed attacks.

Ukrainian authorities have reported the death of more than 100 troops and civilians since separatist leaders and Kiev signed a September 5 truce that was backed by both Moscow and EU states.

But the UN human rights office said Wednesday the post-ceasefire toll through Monday may be as high as 331.

The crisis has torn at East-West relations and seen Russian President Vladimir Putin thrown into diplomatic isolation for his alleged bid to break up his neighbour in retaliation for the February ouster of a Kremlin-backed president.

But hopes of the hostilities ending and the stuttering global economy being relieved of uncertainty about eastern Europe`s fate have dimmed with unceasing guerrilla ambitions to set up their own state.

Rebel leaders now intend to keep the October 26 parliamentary polls from being staged across swathes of the Russian-speaking rustbelt that are home to nearly five million people.

They instead plan their own votes in early November that would set up parliaments and administrations allegiant to Moscow and intended to ensure complete self-rule.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has urged Russia to convince the fighters to resume political negotiations that could grant them broader rights within a single state.

But the Kremlin denies having any hand in the conflict and accuses the West of trying to wrest the ex-Soviet country out of Russia`s sphere of influence.Ukraine`s top policy makers travelled to NATO and EU headquarters in Brussels as well as the head International Monetary Fund office in Washington to win further diplomatic and economic backing from Kiev`s new partners.

Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin was to get acquainted with new NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg -- a liberal former Norwegian premier who last week said the bloc was ready to seek constructive ties with Moscow.

Klimkin said accompanying Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Volodymyr Grossman would seek European Commission funding to help eastern residents survive the winter with limited access to essential supplies.

Grossman would also lay out a plan to "relocate those affected (by the fighting) from eastern region," Klimkin`s office said.

Visiting US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland added during a vising to a border guard camp outside Kiev that Washington would provide an additional $10-million in protective gear and non-combat equipment to Ukrainian servicemen.

Ukrainian Central Bank chief Valeria Gontareva`s own meeting with IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde was set to feature a request to speed up or expand the delivery of an urgent $17.1-billion (13.5-billion-euro) loan.

Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told a Ukrainian cabinet meeting that Gontareva would ask the IMF "to modify its programme taking current realities into account".

The two-year IMF arrangement is part of a global $27-billion package approved in April to help the new leaders avert imminent bankruptcy and help pull Ukraine out of a two-year recession.

But the economic slide has only accelerated and in now expected to see growth shrink by up to nine percent this year.

The IMF itself warned last month that Ukraine may need an additional $19 billion in short-term assistance should the eastern campaign stretch the rest of next year.

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