Six Ukrainian soldiers have been killed and over a dozen others injured in new clashes between government troops and pro-Russia forces in Ukraine’s troubled east.
“In the past 24 hours, to our great regret, as a result of the hostilities, six Ukrainian soldiers were killed and thirteen of our men wounded,” Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, a Ukrainian military spokesman, said at a briefing in the capital Kiev on Sunday.
He also told reporters that another eight soldiers were suffering from shell-shock, adding that the army sustained most of the losses in fierce shelling by the pro-Russians overnight around Lugansk, located about 50 kilometers (30 miles) northeast of Donetsk, and in the southeastern government-held port city of Mariupol.
Over the past few weeks, clashes have claimed several lives from both sides despite a fragile ceasefire agreement aimed at halting the 26-month conflict in eastern Ukraine.
People in Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula of Crimea voted for rejoining the Russian Federation in a referendum in March 2014. The West branded the move as Moscow’s annexation of the territory. The United States and its allies in Europe accuse Moscow of having a hand in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Russia, however, strongly denies the charges.
In April 2014, the government in Kiev launched the first round of its military operations in Ukraine’s eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, which are populated mostly by pro-Russians, to crush anti-government protests there. The operations, however, led to deadly clashes between the two sides.
On September 20, 2014, Kiev and the pro-Russians signed a ceasefire agreement in Minsk, Belarus, in a bid to halt the clashes. The deal required all sides to pull heavy weaponry back from the front lines of the conflict.
On February 12, 2015, Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine agreed to another ceasefire deal in the same city under the name Minsk II. In addition to the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front line, that agreement called for a ceasefire between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russians and constitutional reform to give eastern Ukraine more autonomy.
Despite the ceasefire efforts, sporadic fighting continues to claim more lives.
The crisis in eastern Ukraine has left nearly 9,500 people dead and over 21,000 others injured, according to the United Nations.
According to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which monitors the situation in Ukraine, both sides of the conflict are bringing up more weapons “that should be withdrawn.”
“Last week saw [the] highest number of ceasefire violations in Lugansk region since September 2015,” the deputy chief of the monitoring mission, Alexander Hug, said on Friday.