Fresh clashes leave 5 soldiers dead in east Ukraine
Five Ukrainian soldiers have been killed and 12 injured over the last 24 hours in renewed clashes between government troops and pro-Russia forces in Ukraine’s restive eastern area.
Ukrainian military spokesman, Andriy Lysenko, said on Wednesday that four of the servicemen died when their armored vehicle hit a landmine near the town of Avdiivka in the eastern Donetsk region, and the fifth was killed in an ambush.
“In the past 24 hours the situation in the conflict zone [has] deteriorated. The intensity of attacks is not falling,” Lysenko said, adding the pro-Russians are using arms outlawed under a recent ceasefire agreement, which was meant to end the conflict in the region.
Meanwhile pro-Moscow forces accused the Ukrainian government troops of opening fire on a district of Donetsk overnight in violation of the truce deal.
The latest casualties come ahead of a meeting later on Wednesday between representatives from Russia, Ukraine, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and pro-Russia forces.
Ukraine’s warring sides reached a deal, dubbed Minsk II, at a summit attended by the leaders of Russia, France, and Germany in the Belarusian capital city of Minsk on February 11 and 12. The agreement introduced measures such as a ceasefire, which commenced on February 15, the pullout of heavy weapons, and constitutional reform in Ukraine by the end of the year.
The peace deal has dampened much of the fighting in Ukraine’s volatile provinces but failed to halt violence at key hotspots.
Donetsk and Lugansk, the two mainly Russian-speaking regions, have witnessed deadly clashes between pro-Moscow forces and the Ukrainian army since Kiev launched military operations in April 2014 to crush pro-Russians there.
More than 6,100 people have died in the conflict, the UN says. Some 1.5 million people have been also forced to flee their homes over the past months.