One dead in Ukraine clashes despite de-escalation

15th March 2015, Comments 0 comments

A pro-government militia member has been killed and a soldier injured in clashes between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists, despite a ceasefire, the militia and the army announced Sunday.

The Dnipro-1 militia said one of its fighters had been killed near Pisky village, close to the bombed-out airport of the eastern rebel hub of Donetsk.

The area around the airport is one of a handful of flashpoints where the two sides in the nearly year-long conflict continue to trade fire, over a month after they signed a truce.

The volunteer's death was the first on the government side in four days. The separatists rarely give accounts of their losses.

Ukrainian army spokesman Andriy Lysenko said a member of the regular army had also been injured in the previous 24 hours, without saying where.

On Friday, President Petro Poroshenko announced a "clear indication of a gradual de-escalation" in the fighting, which began when separatists reacting to the ouster of a Russian-backed president in Kiev seized control of the majority Russian-speaking Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

Russia had annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine two weeks previously.

Kiev and the West accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of supporting the insurgency with troops, tanks and heavy weapons - accusations he rejects.

In Friday's interview with Ukrainian television Poroshenko said he was confident the West would give Kiev the arms it had been demanding in the event of a major ceasefire violation by the rebels.

On Wednesday the US announced plans to equip Ukraine with Humvee vehicles, unarmed drones, radars and other equipment worth $75 million -- but stopped short at lethal aid.

"If there is a new upsurge in the aggression against Ukraine, I can say with certainty that we will immediately receive lethal weapons and a new wave of sanctions against the aggressor," Poroshenko said.

© 2015 AFP

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