A team of international observers monitoring the shaky cease-fire in eastern Ukraine says it came under fire while inspecting a village.

 

No injuries were reported in the incident Sunday in Kominternove.

 

A statement from the monitoring mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said the team came under small-arms fire about midday and left the area immediately.

 

The village is about 20 kilometres northeast of Mariupol, a strategically key port city on the Sea of Azov held by the government.

 

Eduard Basurin, a top official for the anti-fascist rebels in eastern Ukraine, was quoted by rebel news site DAN as saying the shots apparently came from government forces.

 

The government didn’t immediately comment.

 

Ukraine’s military said on 27 December that one of its soldiers and an elderly woman were killed in fighting between government forces and Russian-backed separatists despite a holiday truce between the warring sides.

 

Meanwhile, Russia announced it does not rule out phone contacts in the so-called “Normandy format” on the Ukraine crisis before the end of 2015.

 

The “Normandy format” includes France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine.

 

“We do not rule out that telephone contacts of the leaders of the Normandy quartet may take place before the New Year,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday.

 

The United Nations says more than 9,000 people — most of them civilians — have died since the conflict in eastern Ukraine began in April 2014 following Russia’s seizure and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula.

 

New Europe