Ukraine's president Poroshenko visits Mariupol trenches

Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko today paid a visit to his country's war stricken Donetsk region to inspect progress on defence capabilities, as violence in nearby towns continues to increase.

Poroshenko visited the strategic stronghold Mariupol as Ukraine continues with its plan to build 300 fortification sites in different regions of the country. During his visit the president said that 100 defence facilities were already built and estimated that the rest would be finished by the end of July.

The fortifications consist of a sequence of trenches connecting armed control and communication centres in areas near the conflict zone such as Mariupol. Poroshenko said pro-government forces would "work 24 hours a day" to ensure that Ukraine's defences are up to scratch. The estimated cost of construction for the project is around one billion hryvna (€42m).

The fortifications provide a wider containment range in case of rebel advances from the east, as Poroshenko told press that the ceasefire agreement signed between Ukraine, Russia and separatist leaders in Minsk, Belarus last February had allowed Ukraine to reinforce facilities on the frontlines with a second line of defence to support the first.

"They asked me why we needed the Minsk agreement. Firstly, it was because we need peace. Secondly, it was because that gave us a chance to recover our battle readiness and rebuild the line of defence," Poroshenko told Ukrainskaya Pravda.

Prior to Poroshenko's visit to Mariupol, Shyrokyne, the town which stands between the port city and rebel-held territory was targeted by a grenade launcher attack according to Ukrainian volunteer fighters from battalion Sector M who spoke to local outlet 0629. Another pro-Kiev volunteer battalion called Azov confirmed accounts of fighting near the town, claiming two of its fighters were lightly wounded while another was killed.

Mariupol has been a frequent target of rebel advances but Ukrainian forces have retained control of the city since 13 June last year.

Speaking ahead of the one year anniversary since pro-Ukrainian troops wrestled control from the pro-Russain rebels in Mariupol, Poroshenko commended citizens on showing "that Mariupol is Ukraine". He and the presidential apparatus laid flowers during a moment's silence at a memorial site for locals who have died as a result of the war in the city's west.

Violence has sporadically increased in eastern Ukraine as a massive buildup of Russian troops and military vehicles has been reported in recent weeks on the border between the two countries, while individuals with Russian military insignia have been spotted in eastern Ukraine.

Earlier this month an artillery fight broke out between Ukrainian and pro-Russian forces near the Donetsk village of Marinka, a populated area. Both sides accusing one another of starting the fight and claiming that Marinka was theirs, though the independent observer mission in eastern Ukraine (OSCE) confirmed Marinka was under Ukrainian control all along and pro-Russian fighters had indeed utilised artillery despite their denials.

In late May rebel leader Alexander Zaharchenko vowed to take three towns in eastern Ukraine including Slavyansk, which saw fighting in the streets when Ukraine's defence forces retook it from separatists last spring.