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East Ukraine hit by bloodiest clashes since truce

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Ukrainian troops stand on an armored personnel carrier in Avdiivka in the Donetsk region on Jan. 30, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Clashes have escalated between Ukrainian government troops and pro-Russia forces further, with the Kremlin accusing Kiev of undermining a peace deal over the country’s volatile eastern regions.

Fresh fighting took place in the town of Avdiivka on the outskirts of Ukraine’s eastern restive region of Donetsk on Tuesday, claiming the lives of seven Ukrainian soldiers and leaving 20 more wounded. An unspecified number of civilian casualties were also reported, with some 200 coal miners trapped underground.

The unrest was the result of heavy artillery shelling and gunfire in the same area that had killed five government troops a day earlier. It brought the overall death toll for the past two days to 12 in the bloodiest outburst of violence since a ceasefire brokered last month.

Placing the blame on Kiev, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow was extremely concerned by the incident, which he said would undermine efforts to implement the Minsk peace accords.

"We regret that as a result of this attack ... people were killed on both sides," said Peskov. "Such aggressive actions supported by the armed forces of Ukraine undermine the aims and the task of realizing the Minsk accords."

The spokesman also accused Ukrainian authorities of launching the attack as a ploy to distract attention away from domestic and other problems.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov (Photo by RIA Novosti news agency)

Peace observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) confirmed an upsurge of violence in eastern Ukraine.

The monitors said that the European peace forces stationed in eastern Ukraine were “saddened to see how little had changed” since the conflicting sides agreed on an “indefinite truce” in late December last year. The OSCE says the two sides no longer respect clauses in the deal. 

The armed conflict between government troops and pro-Russia forces has killed more than 9,600 since it began in 2014, according to the United Nations Human Rights Office.

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