Russian investigators are probing the death of a five-year-old child allegedly killed by Ukrainian government forces, Moscow announced on Monday, as tensions mount in Ukraine’s conflict-stricken east.
The Russian Investigative Committee, which inspects major crimes, said the Ukrainian army had breached a ceasefire deal on Friday and attacked civilian infrastructure in Oleksandrivske using heavy armament and drones.
The village lies in the self-proclaimed breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).
The boy was allegedly killed on Saturday by an explosive device dropped via drone by Ukrainian troops, Russia’s Tass News agency reported.
As a result of an explosion, the five-year-old child was killed while his 66-year-old grandmother was injured, the Investigative Committee said in a statement.
In another incident, a 46-year-old resident of the village of Mykolaivka in the separatist-held self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic was wounded in an explosion, investigators said.
Russia accuses Ukraine of violating ceasefire
The allegations came as fears rise of an escalation in the long-simmering conflict in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions.
Ukrainian government troops have battled Russian-backed separatists in the area since 2014, when Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula after an uprising that toppled Ukraine’s Kremlin-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych.
A report by the DPR’s news agency did not provide any images of the aftermath of the attack allegedly carried out in Oleksandrivske – some 15 kilometres (nine miles) from the front line – and the claim could not be independently verified.
But Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday said he saw no reason to doubt the reported death of the five-year-old, even though the Kremlin did not have “verified information” on the subject.
“Of course, it would be hard to imagine that they would use a child’s death to spread fake news,” Peskov told reporters.
He once again accused Kyiv of violating peace agreements and called the deaths and injuries of civilians “the bitter consequences” of a conflict that has so far remained unresolved.
Moscow-Washington contact over Ukraine
In a separate development on Monday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that Moscow and the United States, which has been Kyiv’s most powerful ally since Russia’s annexation of Crimea, were in contact at the highest level over the situation in Ukraine.
US forces in Europe raised their alert status last week following “recent escalations of Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine”.
Washington has pledged to stand by Kyiv in the event of any belligerence from Moscow, which denies being a participant in the conflict.
Ryabkov said Russia had assured the US that there was no cause for concern.
His comments echoed earlier remarks made by the Kremlin, which last week said Russian military movements near its shared border with Ukraine posed no threat.
Moscow has also warned NATO against deploying troops to the region, saying such a move would only escalate tensions, after the security alliance voiced concern over what it said was a large Russian military build-up near the border with Ukraine.
Kyiv has also accused Russia of building up a military presence along the shared border.