Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia on Friday of violating peace agreements and vowed a tough response after two soldiers were killed in the war-torn east.
The two servicemen died as a result of artillery shelling near the village of Novoluganske, some 50 kilometres (30 miles) northeast of the main separatist stronghold of Donetsk, Zelensky’s office said in a statement.
The use of heavy weaponry is banned under the terms of a peace deal.
Another eight Ukrainian soldiers were injured.
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Zelensky, a former comedian who crushed predecessor Petro Poroshenko in April’s election, claimed that the new flare-up meant Russia was losing its grip on separatists, who Kiev says receive military support from Moscow.
“An egregious violation of the Minsk agreements – the use of artillery — indicates at least a partial loss of control over mercenaries,” Zelensky said in a statement.
He called the attack a new attempt to torpedo the latest round of peace talks that resumed in the Belarusian capital Minsk on Wednesday.
“Ukraine’s armed forces will deliver a tough response in accordance with the situation — whoever it was who gave the order,” Zelensky said.
Just hours before the beginning of the talks on Wednesday, the Ukrainian army said three Ukrainian soldiers had been killed, accusing separatists of using heavy weaponry banned by the peace plan.
It was the deadliest day in the conflict since Zelensky took office last month.
On Thursday, Zelensky’s spokeswoman Yulia Mendel said the new administration had put together new proposals on how to end the conflict that has claimed some 13,000 lives since 2014.
She suggested the new “roadmap” might be unveiled at a meeting of negotiators in Minsk on June 19.
Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of fuelling the conflict and sending weapons to the insurgents, charges Moscow denies despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.(The Guardian)