Violence flares up in Ukraine

Violence flares up in Ukraine

Grad missiles contravene the 2015 Minsk Agreement. Source: Wikimedia

 

 

Fighting in eastern Ukraine has escalated, with seven Ukrainian soldiers and about 15 Russian-backed militants killed in clashes near the rebel-held city of Donetsk. 

The Ukrainian defence ministry said: “Russian occupation forces [were] using all the might of their arsenal along all front lines” from Donetsk, south to the port of Mariupol using Grad rockets.

The Grad launcher is among heavy-calibre weapons that should have been pulled back from the front line under the 2015 Minsk Agreement.

“The enemy continues to fire at our positions with heavy artillery and mortars,” said Ukrainian military spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk. Electricity and water were said to be unavailable.

Kiev said 15 rebel soldiers were killed and 24 wounded, while one separatist position was seized. The separatists said more than 25 Ukrainian soldiers were killed and more than 40 wounded. There was no independent verification.

Donetsk-based separatist leaders blamed Ukrainian forces for the battles, in which they said one of their top officers, known as Grek, died.

Kiev says seven of its soldiers have died in fighting with Russian-backed rebels in the frontline town of Avdiivka during the past two days.

Around 10,000 have died in the three-year conflict over the Ukraine-Russia border zone.

Kiev said the rebels provoked the fighting by attempting to seize government positions north of Donetsk. In response, “our military servicemen went on the offensive taking an important position which has strategic significance”, said Stepan Poltorak, Kiev’s defence minister.

The insurgents also reported that government troops opened fire on a checkpoint to the north of Donetsk used by thousands of civilians each day between rival forces.

Shortly before Donald Trump held his first telephone call from the Oval Office with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, discussing both Ukraine and Syria.

Kiev fears Trump will drop sanctions on Moscow that were imposed in 2014 after Putin annexed the Crimean peninsula.

Trump said it was “very early to talk” about lifting US sanctions although he has earlier said such a move was under consideration. Italy, Greece, Bulgaria and Slovakia have repeatedly questioned the sanctions.

In Berlin Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, met German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “The ceasefire doesn’t exist,” said Merkel. “The security situation on the contact line raises concerns.”

Merkel demanded the Minsk Agreement be followed.

Poroshenko told the press: “Ukraine stands by Minsk. There is no alternative to Minsk.”

 

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