A Ukrainian serviceman prepares ammunition for fighting with pro-Russia forces in Avdiivka in Donetsk region on March 30, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
The Ukrainian military has announced the death of two of its soldiers in new clashes between government troops and pro-Russia forces in the country’s troubled east.
In a statement released on Monday, Ukrainian forces said the fatalities were the country’s first losses after the latest ceasefire came into effect on April 1, adding that two other soldiers sustained injuries after their positions was attacked with heavy weaponry.
The Saturday truce, brokered by international monitors, was the latest in a string of similar agreements aimed at halting three years of conflict in Ukraine’s volatile eastern regions.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko ordered the implementation of the ceasefire last week, but he said he was “not very optimistic” that pro-Russia forces would abide by it.
Conflict erupted in eastern Ukraine after people in the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea voted for reunification with Russia in March 2014. The West brands the development as Moscow’s annexation of the territory. The US and its allies in Europe also accuse Russia of having a major hand in the crisis in eastern Ukraine, an allegation denied by Moscow.
Ukraine’s eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk have witnessed deadly clashes between pro-Russia forces and the Ukrainian army since Kiev launched military operations in April 2014 to crush pro-Moscow protests there.
The crisis has left over 10,000 people dead, according to the United Nations.
In September 2014, the government in Kiev and the pro-Russian forces signed a ceasefire agreement in the Belarusian capital city of Minsk in a bid to halt the clashes in Ukraine’s eastern regions. They agreed on 12 points, including pulling back heavy weapons, releasing prisoners, setting up a buffer zone on the Russia-Ukraine border, and allowing access to international observers.
The warring sides also inked another truce deal, dubbed Minsk II, in February 2015 under the supervision of Russia, Germany and France.
Since then, however, both parties have on numerous occasions accused each other of breaking the ceasefire.
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