Ukraine PM wants focus on building army

Yatsenyuk says economic growth cannot be expected until 2016 as country braces for new offensive by pro-Russian rebels.

    Ukraine PM wants focus on building army
    Amid fears of conflict, Yatsenyuk has made recommendations for a new coalition government [AP]

    Ukraine should forget about economic growth and concentrating on building an army, the country's prime minister has said.

    Arseniy Yatsenyuk's comments on Friday came as Ukraine's military reported yet more deaths, including a five-year-old-girl, in the conflict that has supposedly been operating under a ceasefire agreement since September 5.

    Ukraine has accused Russia of sending soldiers and weapons to help pro-Russian rebels in eastern regions launch a new offensive in a conflict that has killed more than 4,000 people. Russia has repeatedly denied the claims.

    "Building an army, which is capable of stopping aggression from Russia, is the number one task," Yatsenyuk said in a televised briefing with journalists in which he gave his recommendations for top positions in a new coalition government.

    Increasing violence, truce violations and reports of unmarked armed convoys travelling from the direction of the Russian border have aroused fears that the shaky truce deal struck in Minsk, Belarus, in September could collapse.

    A Ukrainian military spokesman said shelling between government forces and rebels had continued in the past 24 hours in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions, with one soldier and one five-year-old child being killed in different attacks.

    The girl was killed, and her mother seriously wounded, when rebel mortar fire hit a village close to the frontline, northwest of the major rebel stronghold of Luhansk, the spokesman said.

    Gennadiy Moskal, a pro-Kiev government local governor, said the mother had been taking her daughter to a local clinic when the incident occurred.

    "A shell exploded nearby as a result of which the child sadly died on the spot and the mother was heavily injured," he said in a statement.

    Elsewhere, one soldier was also killed and six others injured in fighting around the region over the past 24 hours.

    Meanwhile, Alexander Hug, deputy chief monitor of the OSCE special monitoring mission to Ukraine, has said that inspectors have seen "columns on the territory controlled by the rebels".

    "What we have observed we have reported and its not up to us to speculate as to where they might come from. Our mandate stipulates clearly that we report what we see and not to speculate," he said.

    Russia on Friday accused the OSCE monitors of siding with Ukrainian authorities, warning that their attitude undermined trust in the international security organisation.

    "Some aspects of the recent work of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine are a cause for concern," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

    The prospect of all-out war returning to eastern Ukraine has piled pressure on the country's struggling economy, lowering the value of the hryvnia currency and raising borrowing costs.

    In his televised speech, Yatsenyuk said he did not expect the economy to grow before 2016 and suggested Vitaly Lisovenko, current deputy finance minister, for the role of finance minister in a new coalition government.

    Yatsenyuk, who is all but certain to retain his post in the coalition, said his People's Front party would support President Petro Poroshenko's choice for defence minister and foreign minister.

    Poroshenko has been holding power-sharing talks with Yatsenyuk after their political groups led other pro-Western forces in sweeping pro-Russian parties out of parliament in an October 26 election.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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