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Ukraine, Russia-Backed Separatists Trade Accusations Over Latest Deadly Clashes


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks, flanked by Ruslan Khomchak, military commander of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, at a briefing following an outbreak of violence with Russia-backed separatists, in Kyiv on February 18.

KYIV -- Ukraine and Russia-backed separatists have exchanged accusations over the latest deadly clashes in the country's east.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said one of its soldiers was killed and four were wounded in clashes that occurred early on February 18 near the town of Zolote in the Luhansk region.

The ministry accused the separatists of violating cease-fire agreements by shelling Ukrainian positions on the line of contact.

Meanwhile, the leader of the separatist militia in the Luhansk region, Yakov Osadchy, said four separatist fighters were killed and four were wounded in the clashes, for which he accused Ukrainian forces.

According to Osadchy, the fighting started when a group of Ukrainian soldiers tried to enter separatist-controlled territory but entered a minefield.

The clashes were the latest in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine’s eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, generally known as the Donbas, some parts of which have been controlled since April 2014 by the Moscow-backed separatists.

Russia incited a rebellion in the region following Moscow's illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea in March 2014, but has denied any involvement in the ongoing conflict, in which more than 13,000 people have been killed.

The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv reacted to the events, calling on Moscow to fulfill its obligations outlined in earlier peace agreements.

The 2015 Minsk agreement is a peace plan that was brokered by France and Germany in the Belarussian capital and set a series of cease-fires in eastern Ukraine that have generally failed to hold.

Known as the Normandy Format, the latest four-way talks between Ukraine, Russia, France, and Germany were held in Paris in December.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called the latest clashes "an attempt to disrupt the peace process" and held a session of the Security Council to discuss the new developments.

After the session, Zelenskiy said the "situation is fully controlled by our army."

"We are sure that this provocation will not change the course which we have been confidently on, getting closer to the end of the war, towards peace," Zelenskiy said.

With reporting by UNIAN, RT, and Interfax