Ukraine: The defenders of Mariupol

Despite the month-long ceasefire, fighting continues in villages near the strategic eastern city.

| | War & Conflict, Europe, Ukraine, Russia

Shyrokine, Ukraine - The ceasefire in eastern Ukraine has been in place for more than a month, but in this front-line village outside the strategic city of Mariupol, the violence never stopped.

Volunteer fighters with the Donbas and Azov battalions exchange fire with pro-Russia separatist rebels on a daily basis.

Despite being obliged by the ceasefire agreement to withdraw all heavy weapons from the front lines, both sides are using tanks and 120mm mortars in an ongoing struggle for the important coastal village.

"It's like ping pong here," said one soldier with the Donbas Battalion, who acknowledged that Ukrainian forces were using heavy weaponry in the area.

At a military base in the neighbouring village of Berdianskwe, mortar rounds fly overhead and the sounds of explosions and machine-gun fire ring out throughout the day. 

Shyrokine has become a hotspot in the conflict, lying within range of the steel-producing port city of Mariupol, which is seen as a key target for the rebels. Most of the city's residents are Russian speakers, and many are sympathetic with the separatists' cause.

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