The United States has called on Russia to "immediately" observe a cease-fire deal in eastern Ukraine -- saying that a combined force from Russia’s military and pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine had been targeting international monitors.
In a February 26 statement, the U.S. State Department called on "Russia and the separatist forces it backs to immediately observe the cease-fire, withdraw all heavy weapons, and allow full and unfettered access" to the region for monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Washington's call came a day after the OSCE monitoring mission said armed men in separatist-controlled territory to the north of Donetsk had seized one of the unarmed drones that the monitors use to assess cease-fire violations.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the United States was closely monitoring growing violence in eastern Ukraine -- including, in his words, the "targeting of OSCE Special Monitoring Mission monitors and the seizure of a Special Monitoring Mission unmanned aerial vehicle by combined-Russian separatist forces."
It also came a day after Ukrainian government forces says 16 Ukrainian soldiers were wounded within the previous 24 hours by renewed fighting against Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine -- despite the fresh truce that was meant to come into effect on February 20.
The truce deal announced by Russia and Ukraine was meant to stem a conflict that has raged for nearly three years and has claimed nearly 10,000 lives.
Both Kyiv and the Russia-backed separatists accuse each other of violating the cease-fire deal.