1141 GMT April 03, 2020
The violence was some of the worst since a Paris summit in December tried to narrow positions between Kiev and pro-Russia forces on implementing a peace deal, and it comes ahead of a possible second summit on the same issue in Berlin, according to Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he would convene a National Security Council meeting to discuss the latest flare-up in the country’s Donbass region, Reuters reported.
“This is not just a cynical provocation... it is an attempt to disrupt the peace process in the Donbass, which had begun to move through small but continuous steps,” Zelenskiy said in a statement.
He later said he did not believe the fighting would stymie efforts to end the conflict, in which more than 13,000 people have been killed since 2014 despite a 2015 ceasefire deal.
Announcing the death of one of its soldiers, Ukraine’s military also accused pro-Russia forces of using heavy shelling to try to breach Ukrainian lines.
But pro-Russia forces accused Ukrainian government forces of attacking first, saying a small group of soldiers had tried and failed to break through their lines. It said the group had stumbled into a minefield which had left two Ukrainian soldiers dead and three others injured.
Ukrainian forces had then shelled civilian areas, they said.
The Kremlin said it had seen reports of the clashes and was looking into them. It said it did not know what had triggered the violence.
Zelenskiy came to power last year promising to end the conflict. Since then, Ukraine and Russia have implemented some confidence-building measures, including prisoner swaps and phased troop withdrawals in designated areas.
Zelenskiy and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone last week, the Ukrainian leader’s office said.