More soldiers die in Ukraine truce

2015-02-27 21:12
A Ukrainian serviceman stands guard alongside armoured vehicles, flying the Ukrainian flag, on a road in a village in eastern Ukraine. (Sergei Chuzavkov, AP)

A Ukrainian serviceman stands guard alongside armoured vehicles, flying the Ukrainian flag, on a road in a village in eastern Ukraine. (Sergei Chuzavkov, AP)

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Soledar - Ukraine said on Friday three soldiers had been killed, the first fatalities in several days in the war-torn east, as a shaky truce with pro-Russian rebels appeared to gain some traction with an apparent weapons pull-back.

Isolated skirmishes highlighted the fragile situation as the UN discussed the conflict exactly one year after Russia and pro-Moscow forces began seizing ports and cities on the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea.

Truce deal

Ukrainian military spokesperson Andriy Lysenko said the fighting had halted along most of the frontline but there were still clashes in villages around the ruins of Donetsk airport, one of the most fought-over prizes in the conflict, which fell to the rebels last month.

Russia's annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine sparked the worst East-West standoff since the Cold War.

A year on, the West is hoping the UN-backed truce deal negotiated by Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France in Minsk earlier this month can prevent a further escalation.

After an initial setback, caused by a rebel assault on the transport hub of Debaltseve, the deal appeared to be gaining traction this week.

Previous positions

Both sides said they were continuing to withdraw heavy weapons from along the frontline, a key part of the plan to end ten months of bloodshed in eastern Ukraine that has cost at least 5 800 lives.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko cautioned Friday that the withdrawal was "just a first, test step".

"At any moment our soldiers are ready to return our weapons to their previous positions and rebuff the enemy," he told troops in a speech on Friday.

Diplomats at the United Nations held an emergency Security Council session on Friday on the ceasefire deal at the request of France and Germany.


Read more on:    russia  |  ukraine

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