Fighting Picks up in Eastern Ukraine Despite Renewed Effort to Enforce Ceasefire
Fighting in eastern Ukraine has escalated over the past 24 hours, leaving six government troops dead and 12 wounded, a Ukrainian military spokesman said on Tuesday.
Fighting including heavy shelling broke out late on Monday evening and continued in the early hours of Tuesday on the outskirts of Donetsk, the pro-Russian separatists’ stronghold in eastern Ukraine, according to military spokesman Andriy Lysenko.
"The situation in the conflict zone remains unstable," Lysenko said in a televised briefing. He added the fighting had been most intense around the Donetsk Airport and near positions of Ukrainian government troops near Shyrokyne and Pavlopil.
The rebels said one of their fighters was killed and five were wounded in the overnight clashes.
The leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, Alexander Zakharchenko, said Ukraine had brought “more than 100 pieces of military equipment” close to the city over the past two weeks.
“This indicates preparation for an offensive," the separatist news agency DAN quoted Zakharchenko as telling reporters, according to Reuters.
The combined death toll from the latest surge in fighting is the highest since 19 February, when dozens of Ukrainian troops were killed during the withdrawal from the key railway hub of Debaltseve. Since then, the ceasefire agreement reached in Minsk on 12 February has been largely honoured with occasional violations.
Fighting intensified just hours after foreign ministers of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany met in Berlin late on Monday to examine the implementation of the Minsk accord in a fresh attempt to defuse tensions in eastern Ukraine.
The ministers expressed “grave concern’’ about ceasefire violations but vowed to continue dialogue.
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