Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said about 7,000 civilians have been killed during the conflict with pro-Russian separatists, as military casualties placed fresh strain on the fragile cease-fire.
Two soldiers were killed and 26 wounded in clashes with rebels in the past 24 hours, Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko told reporters in Kiev on Friday. Separatists shelled government positions using weapons that should have been withdrawn from the conflict zone under the truce agreement signed in Minsk, Belarus, in February, he said.
“Banned weapons are being used along the entire contact line,” Lysenko said. “It means that the enemy aims to disrupt the Minsk accord.”
While the peace deal brokered by Germany, France and Russia has curbed the fighting in Ukraine’s easternmost regions, the conflict has shown signs of reigniting. Ukraine’s military suffered its deadliest day in three weeks on Tuesday, when five servicemen were killed. Russia accuses Ukraine of failing to fulfill the Minsk deal, while the government in Kiev says the rebels are breaching the truce on a daily basis. The separatists have threatened to seize more ground
Ukrainian forces fired 44 times on rebel-controlled territory in the past day, including with heavy weapons, the separatist-run DAN news service reported on Friday, citing the Defense Ministry of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic.
The fighting has killed 1,675 Ukrainian soldiers since the yearlong conflict started, while 1,000 civilians are missing, Poroshenko told lawmakers on Friday in Kiev. Ukraine fully respects the Minsk accord, he said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel will hold talks with Poroshenko in Berlin on May 13, German government spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz told reporters on Friday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said he discussed the situation in Ukraine with Chinese leader Xi Jinping during talks at the Kremlin on Friday.
Ukraine, the U.S. and the European Union say Russia is sending troops and weapons to support the rebels, a charge the Kremlin rejects. The U.S. and the EU imposed sanctions on Russia in response.
The success of the Minsk accord is “mixed and uneven,” Douglas Lute, the U.S. ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, told reporters in Brussels on Friday. “It’s an imperfect implementation of Minsk but it’s better than no Minsk,” he said.
For more, read this QuickTake: Standoff in Ukraine