1121 GMT December 12, 2019
Ukrainian newspaper Segodnya reported Sunday that its photographer, Sergiy Nikolayev, had lost his life in a shelling attack that hit the village of Pesky near the Donetsk airport, which was the scene of fierce clashes between the Kiev army and pro-Russians before the truce deal inked in Minsk, Belarus, earlier this month, Press TV reported.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s radical nationalist Right Sector organization said that one of its forces had also been killed in the new clashes.
Dmytro Yarosh, who heads the far-right group, had said last month that the forces under his command would refuse to recognize the ceasefire agreement, also known as Minsk II, and would continue to attack pro-Russian positions.
The fatalities came despite claims by both conflicting sides that they are withdrawing their heavy weaponry from the conflict zone.
OSCE monitors truce
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which is monitoring the truce, said its observers have reported the weapons movements on both sides, but it cannot still confirm a complete withdrawal.
On Friday, the OSCE’s envoy to Kiev warned of “the risk of further escalation” in the region despite the ongoing peace efforts.
“We seem to be at the crossroads, where we are facing the risk of a further escalation of the conflict or where common sense, responsibility and humanity shall prevail and we may be able to walk on the road to peace,” Heidi Tagliavini (pictured above) told the UN Security Council.
The United Nations aid coordinator in Ukraine Neal Walker also urged the international community on Friday to help tackle “a humanitarian crisis” in the violence-wracked eastern Ukraine, saying 4.7 million civilians are in dire need of help.
East Ukraine ceasefire deal
During peace talks in the Belarusian capital city of Minsk on February 11-12, the leaders of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine agreed on the withdrawal of heavy weapons from Ukraine’s front lines and a ceasefire, which officially went into effect on February 14. The warring sides, however, have continued to engage in sporadic clashes.
Kiev crackdown on east
The two mainly Russian-speaking regions of Donetsk and Lugansk in eastern Ukraine have been hit by deadly clashes between pro-Russia forces and the Ukrainian army since Kiev launched military operations in April last year to crush pro-Russia protests there.
In May 2014, the situation in the two flashpoint regions started to worsen as residents overwhelmingly voted for independence from Ukraine in referendums.
The fighting has taken a heavy toll on thousands of people. More than 5,800 people have died in the conflict, the UN says. Around 1.5 million people have also been forced from their homes over the past months of turmoil.