Ukraine says five soldiers killed as talks resume over truce

Ukraine says five soldiers killed as talks resume over truce

MINSK – Agence France-Presse
Ukraine says five soldiers killed as talks resume over truce

AP Photo

Ukraine said on May 6 that five Ukrainian soldiers were killed as fresh clashes rumbled on despite the resumption of talks between the government and rebels over a battered truce deal.

Over the past 24 hours four servicemen died when their armoured vehicle hit a landmine close to the frontline town of Avdiivka in the ravaged east, while a fifth was killed in an insurgent ambush and a further 12 wounded, Ukrainian spokesman Andriy Lysenko said.

The latest casualties come as Ukrainian and separatist representatives met in Minsk for the first time since the two sides inked a shaky peace deal in February that dampened much of the fighting but failed to halt clashes at key hotspots.

Negotiators from the warring sides held talks with international mediators and officials from Russia -- which Kiev accuses of masterminding the conflict -- in the Belarussian capital to discuss the battered truce and a convoluted political roadmap for ending the conflict.    

Both Kiev and the insurgents accuse each other of continuing to violate the ceasefire deal despite claims from both that they have withdrawn heavy weapons from the frontline in accordance with the agreement.

Kiev spokesman Lysenko said that rebels continued to bombard government positions with 152mm cannons around Mariupol, the largest remaining Ukrainian-controlled city in the conflict zone, and areas around the rebel stronghold of Donetsk.    

The United Nations says that over 6,100 people have died in more than a year of fighting that has ravaged Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland and pitched Russia into a bitter standoff with the West.

The resumption of talks in Minsk -- where the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany  hammered out the February deal at a marathon meeting -- is aimed at shoring up the tenuous truce.

“Neither Ukraine nor its international partners will allow any revisions of the Minsk agreements,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said in a statement ahead of the talks.    

“The first key point towards fulfilling the Minsk agreement is ensuring a comprehensive ceasefire,” he said.