Clashes in east Ukraine kills five, including civilians
Three soldiers and two civilians have reportedly been killed during an army operation against pro-Russia forces in the east of the country.
The Defense Ministry spokesman said Monday that three government troops were killed near the village of Marynka in restive Donetsk.
Andriy Lysenko added that four others were injured and two more were seized by pro-Russia forces outside the village.
A shaky truce deal reached earlier in February has effectively failed to reduce hostilities in east Ukraine, with sporadic clashes still continuing between the two sides.
The United Nations human right office issued a report earlier Monday, saying the number of people killed in the fighting in the area has exceeded 6,400 people. The report said there have been numerous and alarming cases of summary executions by armed groups as well as the Ukrainian government forces.
There have also been “horrific accounts of torture and ill-treatment in detention” committed by both sides, according to the report.
Army fire kills civilians
Meanwhile, officials in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic said separate rocket attacks by the Ukrainian army killed two civilians and injured five others in Shyrokyne and Horlivka. They accused the Ukrainian army of carrying out over two dozen attacks in the region in the past 24 hours.
Beside claiming a massive loss of life, the east Ukraine insurgency has led to an unprecedented deterioration of relations between Russia and Western governments. The West, led by the United States, accuses Russia of having a major hand in the conflict, saying those fighting in the eastern parts of the country receive funding and weapons from Moscow. Russia denies the charges altogether.
Also on Monday, the US-led forces began major military drills in the Baltic States, with more than 6,000 troops from 13 NATO countries participating in the exercises in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. Lithuania has called the military maneuvers one of the biggest war games in the country since it joined NATO in 2004.
The drills take place a week after Russia began conducting military exercises at the same time as NATO planes joined Nordic air forces for a drill in Sweden. The US has stepped up its military presence in Eastern Europe following the crisis in Ukraine.