At least nine Ukrainian soldiers have died and 29 others wounded over the last 24 hours in clashes with pro-Russia forces in the country’s east, the military says.
“Due to heavy fighting, long lasting shelling of our position, Ukraine has lost nine soldiers in a 24 hour period. Other 29 soldiers were wounded with varying degrees of severity,” military spokesman Vladyslav Seleznyov said Tuesday.
Seleznyov added that the clashes between Kiev government troops and pro-Russia forces were most intense near the Donetsk region’s northeastern city of Debaltseve.
The latest casualties came a day after Ukraine’s security council said seven soldiers were killed and 25 others wounded in the previous 24 hours.
Meanwhile Russian ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, blamed the western-backed Kiev government for the fighting and called on its allies, especially the US, to “stop egging on the Ukrainian hawks, covering and justifying their inhumane actions.”
This is while Kiev and its Western allies accuse Russia of having a hand in the chaotic situation in eastern Ukraine, a claim Moscow categorically denies.
The latest round of fighting in the eastern regions is at its worst level since a ceasefire was reached four months ago.
Representatives of Ukraine, Russia, and self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk republics inked a ceasefire deal last September in the Belarusian capital, Minsk. The truce has been almost daily violated by both the Ukrainian military and pro-Russia forces in eastern Ukraine.
Donetsk and Lugansk, in eastern Ukraine and with mainly Russian-speaking populations, have been the scene of deadly clashes between pro-Russia protesters and the Ukrainian army since Kiev’s military operation started in April 2014 in a bid to crush the protests.
Violence intensified in May 2014 after the two flashpoint regions held local referendums in which their residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence from Ukraine and joining the Russian Federation.
The fighting has left more than 5,000 people killed and over 1.5 million displaced, the United Nations says.