The Ukrainian military says four of its soldiers have been killed in shelling in the country’s east, where fighting between government forces and Russia-backed separatists has killed more than 13,000 people since April 2014.
"Today, March 26, the armed forces of the Russian Federation once again violated the cease-fire” agreed in July 2020 and targeted the positions of Ukrainian forces with “82-mm mortars, automatic grenade launchers, and large-caliber machine guns prohibited by the Minsk agreements” aimed at putting an end to the conflict, the military said in a statement.
It said two soldiers were also injured in the attack, which occurred near the settlement of Shumy, north of the separatist stronghold of Donetsk.
The skirmish brings the total number of Ukrainian servicemen reported killed since the beginning of the year to 16, according to AFP.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged the leaders of the so-called Normandy Format, a diplomatic process involving Ukraine, Russia, Germany, and France aimed at resolving the conflict, to “do their utmost to preserve a full and comprehensive" cease-fire.
In a joint statement on March 18, the G7 group of nations noted that the cease-fire implemented last year has “significantly reduced violence” in the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk while also deploring “recent military escalations by Russian-backed armed formations at the line of contact.”
The foreign ministers of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States, as well as the EU foreign policy chief, called on Moscow to implement its commitments to the Minsk agreements, and “stop fueling the conflict” by providing “financial and military support to the separatists.
Moscow claims it only provides political and humanitarian support to the separatists holding parts of Donetsk and Luhansk, and says Russians fighting there are volunteers.