A day of fear, shelling and outages in Ukraine's volatile East
KYIV, Ukraine (AP), -- Shells were fired by hundreds of shells along the tense frontlines in eastern Ukraine. Drones monitoring a fragile ceasefire lost their way after the GPS signal they rely upon was jammed and the cellphone network went dark.
A group of international monitors charged with maintaining peace in a small area of land where pro Russian separatists have fought for years against the Ukrainian government forces reported over 500 explosions during the 24 hour period ending on Thursday, which is four times the average daily number of the last month.
The world watches Russian troops advancing near Ukraine's borders, looking for signs that they are preparing to invade. Western officials warn that the spark could be coming from the volatile east. One of the shells crashed into a kindergarten and blew a hole in its wall, sending soccer balls flying off the shelves as the school day began. Others left craters in the schoolyard, causing damage to nearby houses and windows.
"We heard broken glass. The children were terrified. The explosions started immediately and some children began crying," Olena Yaryna (the school director) said.
Valentyna's home was nearby, and the explosions filled her living space and hallway with smoke.
She said, "I switched off my TV, and there were seven additional shellings before it stopped." Her bright pink scarf contrasted against the gray debris and her hair was covered in bright pink.
Half of the village lost power after three people were injured. Oleksandr Pavliuk was a commander in the Ukrainian army and claimed that the explosions were meant to provoke a reaction and then a counter-response. This echos the warnings of the United States. Russia denies any plans for an attack.
Oleksii Reznikov, Ukrainian Defense Minister, stated Friday that "our task is to control the abnormal situation to avoid an excuse for escalation."
Since 2014, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe monitors have been stationed in Donetsk and Luhansk to maintain the ceasefire. Although it has been difficult, this task was more difficult this week when they were repeatedly denied access to their facilities. Yasar Halit Cevik is the chief monitor for the mission. He told the U.N Security Council that the gradual fraying cease-fire "has regretably accelerated." According to him, daily cease-fire violations have increased by twofold since the start of the year.
The organization also recorded 600 cease-fire violations in a single day. This is more than twice the monthly average. Three of the small surveillance drones were lost when the GPS signal became jammed. A fourth drone couldn't reach the ground without receiving a signal.
According to an Associated Press journalist who was in the area, electronic interference continued overnight. The cellphone network in Luhansk went down for hours for the second consecutive night.
Stanytsia Luhanska was again struck as night fell.