Apparent shelling heard outside Ukrainian port

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Apparent shelling heard outside Ukrainian port
A soldier's boot lies near a destroyed Ukrainian army tank near the village of Lebedynske, on the highway joining Mariupol and Novoazovsk, Ukraine, Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014. After four months of war, eastern Ukraine begins the first full day of an uncertain cease-fire. The truce agreement calls for an exchange of prisoners and establishment of humanitarian corridors, but how quickly those actions will begin is unclear. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
A destroyed kindergarten building is seen in the village of Kominternove , Ukraine, Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014. After four months of war, eastern Ukraine begins the first full day of an uncertain cease-fire. The truce agreement calls for an exchange of prisoners and establishment of humanitarian corridors, but how quickly those actions will begin is unclear. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
A burned Ukrainian army tank is seen near a destroyed kindergarten in the village of Kominternove, Ukraine, Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014. After four months of war, eastern Ukraine begins the first full day of an uncertain cease-fire. The truce agreement calls for an exchange of prisoners and establishment of humanitarian corridors, but how quickly those actions will begin is unclear. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
An abandoned Ukrainian army tank is seen in the village of Kominternove , Ukraine, Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014. After four months of war, eastern Ukraine begins the first full day of an uncertain cease-fire. The truce agreement calls for an exchange of prisoners and establishment of humanitarian corridors, but how quickly those actions will begin is unclear. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
A destroyed Ukrainian army tank is seen near the village of Lebedynske, on the highway joining Mariupol and Novoazovsk, Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014. After four months of war, eastern Ukraine begins the first full day of an uncertain cease-fire. The truce agreement calls for an exchange of prisoners and establishment of humanitarian corridors, but how quickly those actions will begin is unclear.(AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
A man looks at a destroyed Ukrainian army tank near the village of Lebedynske, on the highway joining Mariupol and Novoazovsk, Ukraine, Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014. After four months of war, eastern Ukraine begins the first full day of an uncertain cease-fire. The truce agreement calls for an exchange of prisoners and establishment of humanitarian corridors, but how quickly those actions will begin is unclear. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Alexander Zakharchenko, the leader of pro-Russian rebels in Donetsk, and Former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma, left, speak to the media after talks on cease-fire in Ukraine in Minsk, Belarus, Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. Ukraine and the Russian-backed rebels have signed a cease-fire deal that starts in less than two hours, a European official at the talks said Friday. (AP Photo)
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini, flanked by Alexander Zakharchenko, the leader of pro-Russian rebels in Donetsk, and Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov, right, speaks to the media after talks on cease-fire in Ukraine in Minsk, Belarus, Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. Ukraine and the Russian-backed rebels have signed a cease-fire deal that starts in less than two hours, a European official at the talks said Friday. (AP Photo)
Alexander Zakharchenko, the leader of pro-Russian rebels in Donetsk, attends talks on cease-fire in Ukraine in Minsk, Belarus, Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. Talks expected to bring a much-anticipated cease-fire to the fighting in eastern Ukraine began Friday in the Belarusian capital even as the rebels kept pressing their offensive against a strategic port city. (AP Photo)
Alexander Zakharchenko, left, the leader of pro-Russian rebels in Donetsk, and Andrei Purgin, the leader of pro-Russian rebels in Luhansk, attend talks on cease-fire in Ukraine in Minsk, Belarus, Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. Talks expected to bring a much-anticipated cease-fire to the fighting in eastern Ukraine began Friday in the Belarusian capital even as the rebels kept pressing their offensive against a strategic port city. (AP Photo)
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini, right, attends talks on a cease-fire in Ukraine in Minsk, Belarus, Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. Talks expected to bring a much-anticipated cease-fire to the fighting in eastern Ukraine began Friday in the Belarusian capital even as the rebels kept pressing their offensive against a strategic port city. (AP Photo)
Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov arrives for talks on a cease-fire in Ukraine in Minsk, Belarus, Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. Talks expected to bring a much-anticipated cease-fire to the fighting in eastern Ukraine began Friday in the Belarusian capital even as the rebels kept pressing their offensive against a strategic port city. (AP Photo)
A volunteer of the Ukrainian paramilitary Azov battalion waits on an armoured vehicle, as pro-Russian separatists fire heavy artillery, on the outskirts of the key southeastern port city of Mariupol, on September 5, 2014. NATO leaders are expected to announce a raft of fresh sanctions against Russia on Friday over its actions in Ukraine, although hopes remain that a ceasefire can be forged at peace talks in Minsk on the same day. AFP PHOTO/PHILIPPE DESMAZES (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images)
Volunteer of the Ukrainian paramilitary Azov battalion wait on an armoured vehicle, as pro-Russian separatists fire heavy artillery, on the outskirts of the key southeastern port city of Mariupol, on September 5, 2014. NATO leaders are expected to announce a raft of fresh sanctions against Russia on Friday over its actions in Ukraine, although hopes remain that a ceasefire can be forged at peace talks in Minsk on the same day. The inscription on the Ukrainian flag (L) reads 'Defence of the city'. AFP PHOTO/PHILIPPE DESMAZES (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images)
A volunteer of the Ukrainian paramilitary Azov battalion makes a victory sign while waiting on an armoured vehicle, as pro-Russian separatists fire heavy artillery, on the outskirts of the key southeastern port city of Mariupol, on September 5, 2014. NATO leaders are expected to announce a raft of fresh sanctions against Russia on Friday over its actions in Ukraine, although hopes remain that a ceasefire can be forged at peace talks in Minsk on the same day. AFP PHOTO/PHILIPPE DESMAZES (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images)
Ukrainian army soldiers wait to go to the front line on an armoured vehicle as pro-Russian separatists fire heavy artillery, on the outskirts of the key southeastern port city of Mariupol, on September 5, 2014. NATO leaders are expected to announce a raft of fresh sanctions against Russia on Friday over its actions in Ukraine, although hopes remain that a ceasefire can be forged at peace talks in Minsk on the same day. AFP PHOTO/PHILIPPE DESMAZES (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images)
Ukrainian army soldiers go to the front line on an armoured vehicle as pro-Russian separatists fire heavy artillery, on the outskirts of the key southeastern port city of Mariupol, on September 5, 2014. NATO leaders are expected to announce a raft of fresh sanctions against Russia on Friday over its actions in Ukraine, although hopes remain that a ceasefire can be forged at peace talks in Minsk on the same day. AFP PHOTO/PHILIPPE DESMAZES (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images)
Ukrainian army soldiers wait to go to the front line on an armoured vehicle as pro-Russian separatists fire heavy artillery, on the outskirts of the key southeastern port city of Mariupol, on September 5, 2014. NATO leaders are expected to announce a raft of fresh sanctions against Russia on Friday over its actions in Ukraine, although hopes remain that a ceasefire can be forged at peace talks in Minsk on the same day. AFP PHOTO/PHILIPPE DESMAZES (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images)
Ukrainian army soldiers go to the front line on an armoured vehicle as pro-Russian separatists fire heavy artillery, on the outskirts of the key southeastern port city of Mariupol, on September 5, 2014. NATO leaders are expected to announce a raft of fresh sanctions against Russia on Friday over its actions in Ukraine, although hopes remain that a ceasefire can be forged at peace talks in Minsk on the same day. AFP PHOTO/PHILIPPE DESMAZES (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images)
Ukrainian army soldiers go to the front line on an armoured vehicle as pro-Russian separatists fire heavy artillery, on the outskirts of the key southeastern port city of Mariupol, on September 5, 2014. NATO leaders are expected to announce a raft of fresh sanctions against Russia on Friday over its actions in Ukraine, although hopes remain that a ceasefire can be forged at peace talks in Minsk on the same day. AFP PHOTO/PHILIPPE DESMAZES (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images)
Former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma, center, arrives for talks on a cease-fire in Ukraine in Minsk, Belarus, Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. Talks expected to bring a much-anticipated cease-fire to the fighting in eastern Ukraine began Friday in the Belarusian capital even as the rebels kept pressing their offensive against a strategic port city. (AP Photo)
Former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma, right, arrives for talks on a cease-fire in Ukraine in Minsk, Belarus, Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. Talks expected to bring a much-anticipated cease-fire to the fighting in eastern Ukraine began Friday in the Belarusian capital even as the rebels kept pressing their offensive against a strategic port city. (AP Photo)
A destroyed Ukrainian army tank is seen near the village of Lebedynske, on the highway joining Mariupol and Novoazovsk, Ukraine, Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014. After four months of war, eastern Ukraine begins the first full day of an uncertain cease-fire. The truce agreement calls for an exchange of prisoners and establishment of humanitarian corridors, but how quickly those actions will begin is unclear. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
A soldier of the Ukrainian army sits on a tank in the port city of Mariupol, southeastern Ukraine, Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. The Ukrainian president declared a cease-fire Friday to end nearly five months of fighting in the nation's east after his representatives reached a deal with the Russian-backed rebels at peace talks in Minsk. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Lorries, part of a Russian humanitarian convoy, cross the Ukrainian border at the Donets'k-Izvarino custom control checkpoint as Ukrainian refugees look at them on September 13, 2014. The first 35 vehicles in a second Russian aid convoy heading for rebel-controlled eastern Ukraine have crossed the border, Russian news agencies reported. AFP PHOTO / SERGEI VENYAVSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI VENYAVSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Lorries, part of a Russian humanitarian convoy, cross the Ukrainian border at the Donets'k-Izvarino custom control checkpoint as Ukrainian refugees look at them on September 13, 2014. The first 35 vehicles in a second Russian aid convoy heading for rebel-controlled eastern Ukraine have crossed the border, Russian news agencies reported. AFP PHOTO / SERGEI VENYAVSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI VENYAVSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
ZAPORIZHIA, UKRAINE - SEPTEMBER 12: Thousands of Ukrainians gather to attend 'Peace March' demanding peace in Eastern Ukraine and supporting Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko's plan for peace, in Zaporizhia, Ukraine on September 12, 2104. (Photo by Maksim Scherbina/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ZAPORIZHIA, UKRAINE - SEPTEMBER 12: Thousands of Ukrainians gather to attend 'Peace March' demanding peace in Eastern Ukraine and supporting Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko's plan for peace, in Zaporizhia, Ukraine on September 12, 2104. (Photo by Maksim Scherbina/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
KIEV, UKRAINE - SEPTEMBER 12: Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (2nd L) meets with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (2nd R) and European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy Stefan Fule (3rd R) in Kiev, Ukraine, on September 12, 2014. Barroso and Fule are in Kiev to attend the 11th Yalta European Strategy Annual Meeting taking place between September 11 and 13. (Photo by Bahadir Vanli/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ZAPORIZHIA, UKRAINE - SEPTEMBER 12: Thousands of Ukrainians gather to attend 'Peace March' demanding peace in Eastern Ukraine and supporting Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko's plan for peace, in Zaporizhia, Ukraine on September 12, 2104. (Photo by Maksim Scherbina/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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By JIM HEINTZ and LAURA MILLS

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) - Witnesses in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol reported sustained explosions outside the city and a volunteer battalion of Ukrainian fighters says Grad rockets were fired at its positions late Saturday, little more than a day after Ukraine and Russian-backed separatist rebels signed a cease-fire following more than four months of fighting in the country's east.

The cease-fire had appeared to largely been holding during much of the day.

But late Saturday, witnesses in Mariupol told The Associated Press by telephone that heavy explosions were coming from the city's eastern outskirts, where Ukrainian troops retain defensive lines against the rebels.

The volunteer Azov Battalion said on Facebook that their positions were hit by Grad rockets, but did not give details.

Mariupol is a port city of about half a million on the coast of the Sea of Azov. Rebels recently opened a new front on the coast, leading to fears that the separatists were trying to secure a land corridor between Russia and the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in March.

Earlier Saturday, the presidents of Ukraine and Russia said the cease-fire was mostly holding, but the truce still appeared fragile as both sides of the conflict claimed violations.

A statement from Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's office said he and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed steps "for giving the cease-fire a stable character" in a telephone conversation Saturday.

But, it said, both leaders assessed the cease-fire as having been "fulfilled as a whole." A separate Kremlin statement about the call said, "There was a mutual satisfaction with the fact that the sides of the conflict were overall observing the cease-fire regime."

Col. Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine's national security council, told reporters that rebels had fired at Ukrainian forces on 10 occasions Friday night after the cease-fire took effect.

In Donetsk, the largest city controlled by the Russian-backed separatists, the night passed quietly - a rarity after several months of daily shelling in residential areas. But Alexander Zakharchenko, the top separatist leader from Donetsk, told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti that the cease-fire had been violated with two rounds of shelling in the town of Amvrosiivka, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) southeast of Donetsk.

"At this time the cease-fire agreement is not being fully observed," he said. He didn't say when the supposed breach occurred.

Lysenko said Ukrainian forces were strictly observing the cease-fire and suggested that Zakharchenko's claim was a provocation.

Meanwhile, the International Committee for the Red Cross said on its Twitter account that its workers had tried to deliver food aid to the city of Luhansk, which had endured weeks of heavy fighting, but turned back after shooting northeast of the city. It did not give further details.

Earlier Saturday, the mayor's office in Donetsk said there had been no reports of shooting or shelling there although some shelling had been heard late Friday afternoon. The city council of the second-largest rebel-held city of Luhansk, which had endured intense fighting for weeks, also reported the night was quiet.

Ukraine, Russia and the Kremlin-backed separatists signed the cease-fire deal Friday in Minsk, the Belarusian capital, in an effort to end more than four months of fighting in the region. The negotiators also agreed on the withdrawal of all heavy weaponry, the release of all prisoners and the delivery of humanitarian aid to devastated cities in eastern Ukraine.

If the ceasefire holds, it would be a landmark achievement for both sides. Fighting between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian government troops has ravaged the already teetering Ukrainian economy, claimed at least 2,600 civilian lives and left hundreds of thousands homeless, according to United Nations estimates.

Ukraine Truce Holds Overnight Amid Doubts It Will Last

The country also faces escalated tensions between the Russian-speakers who predominate in the rebel east and the Ukrainian-speakers in the central and western reaches.

In a sign of the simmering anger, the head of one of Ukraine's two main Orthodox churches on Friday issued a fierce rebuke of Putin, claiming the he, like the Biblical Cain, was under the influence of Satan.

"For the sake of his pride, he continues to multiply evil," wrote Patriarch Filaret, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate.

That church competes for influence in Ukraine with another Orthodox faction that is under the Moscow Patriarchate.

Western leaders voiced skepticism over Russia's commitment to the deal. A previous 10-day cease-fire, which each side repeatedly accused the other of violating, yielded few results at the negotiating table.

U.S. President Barack Obama said he was hopeful the cease-fire would hold but unsure the rebels would follow through.

"It has to be tested," Obama said Friday at the close of a two-day NATO summit in Wales.

Both the U.S. and the European Union have prepared even tougher sanctions on Moscow, and Obama stressed that the most effective way to ensure the cease-fire's success was to move ahead with those measures and maintain pressure on Russia. According to an EU diplomat, these new measures would target Russia's access to capital markets and trade in arms and defense technology, dual-use goods and sensitive technologies. The new sanctions were given preliminary approval Friday night and could be implemented as early as Tuesday.

"If certain processes get underway, we are prepared to suspend sanctions" against Russia, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

In a statement published online Saturday, Russia's foreign ministry condemned further EU sanctions and promised that "there will undoubtedly be a reaction from our side" to any new measures. In August, Russia passed a sweeping ban on meat, fruit, vegetables, and dairy product imports from the EU, the U.S. and a host of other countries who imposed sanctions on Russia.

___

Mills reported from Moscow. Peter Leonard in Donetsk, Ukraine, contributed to this report.

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