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In Eastern Ukraine, the return to school provided an occasion for a cease-fire that started Tuesday. But a day later the temporary peace was violated, when a Ukrainian army vehicle was ambushed near Luhansk. Now in the second year of conflict, trench warfare rages on between government troops and Russian-backed separatists. Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner reports.
While much of the world's attention turned away from Ukraine this summer, the fighting there largely raged on, killing and wounding more fighters and civilians and continuing to displace people in that country's East.
Yet another cease-fire between Russian pro-separatists and Ukrainian forces went into effect this week, but many aren't holding their breath.
Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner has this update.
For children across Ukraine, even in war-torn Donetsk, this is back-to-school week, with its traditional assemblies and ceremonies. It also provided the occasion for a cease-fire that went into effect yesterday. But it was violated today near rebel-held Luhansk, when a Ukrainian army vehicle was ambushed, killing two people.
Indeed, now in its second year of conflict, cease-fires brokered by European powers have repeatedly failed to stick. Instead, trench warfare rages on in Eastern Ukraine between government troops and Russian-backed separatists. All told, some 6,800 people have been killed, more than two million have fled their homes, and those who remain live in a constant state of fear.
WOMAN (through interpreter):
When it's evening, when the night is coming, we are waiting for something, because there are almost no quiet nights.
Washington Post reporter Thomas Gibbons-Neff just returned from Eastern Ukraine, where he spent five days on the front line with a Ukrainian army unit in Pisky, with rebels just a thousand yards away.
THOMAS GIBBONS-NEFF, The Washington Post:
Every night, it was kind of the same routine, but that same routine involved a really, you know, palpable sense of tension. They were ready for someone to say, hey, tanks are coming across this field, get ready to fight to the death, or prepare to retreat.
Like, it was a strange routine, in the sense that it happened the same every night, but that same night, every night involved, hey, maybe this is it, maybe this is going to be the big attack.
The conflict in the East has stoked political tensions in the capital, Kiev. Far-right nationalists protested Monday outside Parliament, as it voted to grant greater autonomy to rebel areas.
Violence broke out, killing three national guardsmen and hospitalizing 140 people. Inside, the lawmakers held a rowdy session, replete with chanting, paper-tossing and impassioned speeches over whether to decentralize power, a condition agreed to by President Petro Poroshenko, as demanded by Russia, in last February's Minsk accord designed to end the violence.
The Ukrainian Parliament speaker urged his colleagues to vote for the measure.
VOLODYMYR GROYSMAN, Ukrainian Parliament Speaker (through interpreter):
Difficult decisions are not easy to make. The thing we must do today will stop the Ukrainian nation being a slave to others. The authority of a given place will belong to the people and Ukraine will be an independent, sovereign, united, and rich country.
Meanwhile, Washington blames Russia for the continued turmoil.
VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN:
The fact of the matter is, Ukraine is now under siege. Russia is building military outposts on Ukrainian soil. The brazen attempt to redraw the borders of Europe by force threatens not only Ukraine, but the shared aspiration for a Europe that is whole and free and at peace.
NATO is now conducting annual exercises on Russia's doorstep. Yesterday, five U.S. warships and 1,000 troops joined other nations in Operation Sea Breeze in the Black Sea.
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