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Conflict sharply escalates in east Ukraine: Monitor

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 ride on a combat vehicle near Kramatorsk, in eastern Ukraine. (File photo by Reuters)

A European organization, which monitors the implementation of peace in eastern Ukraine, has warned about a sharp deterioration in the security situation in the region.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said in a statement on Tuesday that it had recorded 16,000 ceasefire violations between December 11 and 17, a 35-percent increase compared to the week before.

“We note with concern a sharp deterioration in the security situation with ceasefire violations reaching levels not recorded since February this year,” said chief monitor Ertugrul Apakan.

The ceasefire was implemented to put an end to the conflict that erupted between pro-Russia forces and Ukraine’s military in the region back in 2014.

In March 2014, the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea voted for secession from Ukraine and unification with Russia. The armed conflict in eastern Ukraine erupted shortly afterwards. The crisis has so far left over 10,000 people dead and more than a million others displaced, according to the United Nations (UN).

The pro-Russians have turned the two regions of Donetsk and Lugansk in the east — collectively known as the Donbass — into self-proclaimed republics.

Apakan explained that the latest escalation of conflict indicates an established trend “in which a recommitment to the ceasefire by the sides was followed by a steady increase in the level of violence, culminating in fierce fighting.”

OSCE monitors are inspecting the site near village Pryshyb, near Lugansk, on April 25, 2017, where OSCE patrol vehicle was destroyed by an explosion on April 23. (Photo by AFP)

Meanwhile, several aid agencies issued warnings over the humanitarian situation in the Donbass.

The situation deteriorated there after a Monday attack on the village of Novoluhanske, which affected some 2,000 residents, according to the UN’s humanitarian arm. At least eight civilians were wounded and more than 50 buildings were damaged in the Monday shelling.

The world body’s High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Twitter that the residents were fleeing the area in extremely cold conditions.

The Ukrainian military accused the pro-Russia forces of “deliberately firing” more than 40 times from multiple-launch rocket systems at the village.

The pro-Russians, however, denied attacking Novoluhanske, saying the Ukrainian military had fired at the village to justify attacks on residential areas controlled by the pro-Russia forces. The pro-Russia forces also said attacks from the Ukrainian side had almost doubled in the past 24 hours.

Kiev and its Western allies accuse Moscow of having a hand in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Moscow, however, dismisses the accusation.

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