Fears rise amid Ukraine truce breaches

Russia rejects claims it has been supporting rebels in Ukraine and says Kiev is responsible for breaking the ceasefire.

    Fears rise amid Ukraine truce breaches
    The death toll has passed 4,000 since the ceasefire was agreed to in September [Reuters]

    The ceasefire in eastern Ukraine is all but dead, Ukraine's representative to the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has told an Austrian newspaper.

    It was now barely possible to still speak of a ceasefire, Ihor Prokopchuk was quoted as telling Die Presse in an interview.

    "Since the Minsk agreement ... we have more than 2,400 breaches of the ceasefire by militant groups. More than 100 Ukrainian soldiers and dozens of civilians have been killed," he said.

    Russia's Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, said it was doing "everything" to prevent a renewal of the conflict that has blighted eastern Ukraine but that Kiev is not adhering to the Minsk protocol, which underpins the ceasefire, Interfax news agency reported.

    The truce, which the OSCE is monitoring, was agreed upon in Minsk, the Belarussian capital, on September 5 after weeks of fighting between Ukrainian government forces and separatists.

    The truce has been violated daily, and increasingly since the rebels held what the West and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said were illegitimate leadership elections on November 2.

    Trading accusations

    The death toll has passed 4,000 since the truce was accepted, with Ukraine accusing Russia of sending more troops into the country's east last week.

    Russia has repeatedly denied that it has sent money or aid to the separatists and denies that it is a party to the conflict, despite reports from NATO, OSCE and journalists on the ground to the contrary.

    Russia denies helping rebels

    Prokopchuk, Ukraine's representative to the OSCE, said Ukrainian troops had not broken the ceasefire.

    "All Ukrainian troops have been given the order to adhere to the ceasefire. But when they are being attacked, they react," he said.

    Separately, the Ukrainian army reiterated that it had no intention of reneging on the ceasefire, which is technically still in effect.

    Andriy Lysenko, Ukrainian military spokesman, said in Kiev on Thursday that the build-up of forces in the regions the separatists control indicated that the pro-Russian rebels were planning a new offensive in a conflict.

    "There is no intention of abandoning it [the ceasefire] despite all ... attempts to break these agreements by the Russian side," he said.

    Lysenko said shelling in residential areas of the separatist-held Luhansk and Donetsk regions had intensified and that there had been no let-up in the flow of equipment to rebels from Russia.

    "We can't predict when [an attack could happen] but we must always be prepared," he said, adding that reserve army units were being prepared for action in case they were needed.

    He said four Ukrainian soldiers had been killed in the past 24 hours.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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