Ukraine said that one of its soldiers was killed and seven others injured Sunday in a new outbreak of violence between government forces and pro-Russian separatists fighting for control in eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian military spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk accused the insurgents of escalating their fire against Kyiv's troops in the last 24 hours, a new threat to the fragile cease-fire agreed to in February.
He said the attacks were mostly focused near the Donetsk airport and near Mariupol, a government-held coastal city on the Sea of Azov.
“An increase in the number of violations of the cease-fire regime by [separatist] fighters has been noticeable in the past 24 hours,” Motuzyanyk said.
He said the rebels were also using Grad rockets, again in violation of the Minsk deal which calls for heavy weaponry to be pulled back from the conflict zone.
Attack on Saturday
The Ukrainian military on Saturday made similar accusations against the rebels, who in turn accused the military of opening fire on an aid convoy from Russia and of firing indiscriminately in populated areas.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which is monitoring the ceasefire, says the violations are still limited and markedly down from pre-ceasefire violence.
“We are not in a phase of very active conflict like we have seen in previous months,” OSCE Secretary-General Lamberto Zannier told Reuters on the sidelines of a security conference in Estonia on Saturday.
The casualties, which follow the death on Saturday of another serviceman in shelling in the southeast, occurred as the Ukrainian military and the rebels accused each other of violating a peace deal signed in Minsk, Belarus, in February.
More than 6,100 civilians, separatists and pro-Kyiv service staff have been killed so far in the conflict. Fighting erupted in Ukraine's Russian-speaking east after the Moscow-backed president was ousted in a public revolt and Russia annexed Crimea.
Meanwhile, even as he reaffirmed Kyiv's commitment to the Minsk agreement, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko observed large-scale military exercises staged at a training range in the southern Mykolaiv region Saturday, part of the country's move to boost defense capabilities.
Helicopters flew overheard and opened fire at targets, while military vehicles trudged through fields and plumes of smoke billowed in the distance at the Shyroky Lan training base.