KIEV, Ukraine, July 7 (UPI) — Two Ukrainian soldiers were killed in clashes with separatist forces in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region, military officials said.
Another 10 were injured Wednesday during the fights, the Ukrainian Army’s Anti-Terrorist Operations Col. Andriy Lysenko said during a briefing in Kiev. The state news agency Ukrinform called the encounters cease-fire violations by pro-Russian militants.
On Thursday the ATO reported, “The Russian occupation forces continue shelling the ATO positions. Fifty-seven barrage incidents were observed in the past 24 hours, including 30 in the Donetsk sector alone; there were 16 attacks in the Mariupol sector and 11 in the Luhansk sector.”
Mortar and grenade attacks were reported in towns across the region, the Ukraine-Interfax news agency said Thursday.
Despite a cease-fire agreement and an attempt by both sides to pacify the region, as specified in the Minsk Protocols, protests by pro-Russian groups have escalated to armed clashes in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions, together collectively known as the Donbas. Ukraine says the opposition forces are now largely Russian troops and not Ukrainians with pro-Russian sentiments.
The Russian foreign ministry said Thursday it was concerned about a buildup of Ukrainian troops in the region, noted by observers including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and said, “It is clear that Ukrainian forces are preparing a military operation.”
After a meeting of Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin with French and German ambassadors, a ministry statement said Russia will rely on Germany and France to use their influence with Kiev to prevent a Ukrainian military assault and destabilize the situation in eastern Ukraine.