Two soldiers killed in east Ukraine blast
Ukraine on Thursday reported the death of two soldiers in a mine blast but no heavy fighting as a new truce with pro-Russian insurgents appeared to be holding for the 10th day.
The two died and four others were injured when one of them set off a trip wire in the rebel eastern province of Lugansk, Ukrainian officials said.
A Western-brokered ceasefire agreed in February in Minsk has been punctuated by frequent deadly incidents, with both soldiers and civilians dying in mine fields scattered across the industrial war zone.
In a fresh bid to end the violence, Ukrainian government and separatists negotiators agreed to seek to end all violations of the ceasefire starting on September 1.
The Ukrainian army said its forces had been shot at on just three occasions since Wednesday, with no heavy weapons used. The rebels reported four attacks by government troops.
Alexander Hug, the deputy head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) mission in Ukraine that monitors the truce terms' implementation, noted a "significant reduction" in number of new violations
Hug also stressed the need for both both sides to withdraw smaller-calibre weapons from the front. The warring sides have repeatedly failed to agree on how such a pullback could be achieved.
The withdrawal of heavier weapons -- an important part of the February deal -- has also been only partially implemented by both sides.
In a phone conversation on Wednesday, the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine agreed to hold a summit in Paris on October 2 to end the 17-month conflict, the Kremlin said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande co-sponsored the Minsk deal and are trying hard to make sure its 13 points -- many of them still under dispute -- are are implemented by the end of the year.
The United Nations estimates that the conflict on the European Union's eastern frontier has claimed the lives of nes arly 8,000 people and injured almost 18,000 -- most of them civilians.
Russia denies accusations by Kiev and its Western allies of orchestrating and supporting the conflict to try to prevent Ukraine from joining the European Union and possibly NATO at a later date.
© 2015 AFP