Ukraine soldier killed in clashes despite cease-fire
DONETSK, UkraineOne soldier has been killed and another wounded in eastern Ukraine, the army said on Feb. 20, as it accused rebels of breaking a new truce deal announced at the weekend and which took effect as of Feb. 20.
Ukraine’s military spokesman Leonid Matyukhin said Russian-backed rebels had shelled his troops “on all fronts,” resulting in one death and one injury over the past 24 hours.
But a military spokesman from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Eduard Basurin, told AFP that the truce had largely held since midnight with “almost no attacks.”
The fresh clashes cast a shadow over the new cease-fire deal announced after the foreign ministers of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France held talks in Munich on Feb. 18.
The agreement brought renewed hope of an end to 34 months of conflict in which nearly 10,000 people have been killed.
The conflict flared up again earlier this month with several dozen people killed around the flashpoint town of Avdiivka and both sides shifting heavy weaponry forward.
Under the Minsk plan - agreed in the Belarussian capital in 2015 - the warring parties are meant to withdraw their big guns to create a buffer zone along the frontline.
Both sides have repeatedly violated the Minsk agreement and little progress has been made towards a political resolution of the conflict.
Ukraine accuses its neighbor Russia of launching the war in retaliation for the ouster of Kiev’s Moscow-backed president in 2014. Russia however denies any role in the conflict.
Meanwhile, Germany on Feb. 20 criticized as “unacceptable” Russia’s decision to recognize passports issued by separatist rebels in Ukraine’s eastern regions of Lugansk and Donetsk.
“The recognition of travel documents of the self-declared, so-called people’s republics of Lugansk and Donetsk undermines the unity of Ukraine,” said Chancellor Angela Merkel’s top spokesman Steffen Seibert.
“It directly contradicts everything that was agreed in Minsk [peace talks] and is therefore unacceptable.”
Authorities in pro-Russian rebel-held areas about a year ago began issuing passports very similar to Russian ones bearing a two-headed eagle on a red backdrop.
Russia announced Feb. 18 a decree recognizing such passports and other documents, a move Kiev called a “provocation.”