Three Ukrainian soldiers killed in separatist east: Kiev

1st March 2016, Comments 0 comments

Three Ukrainian soldiers were reported killed and two wounded Tuesday when their car hit a mine in the former Soviet republic's pro-Russian separatist east.

A military spokesman in Kiev said another three government troops were wounded in separate exchanges of fire near the front separating rebel-run parts of the industrial Lugansk and Donetsk regions from the rest of Ukraine.

The pro-Western authorities in Lugansk said the three soldiers died when a car carrying troops from Ukraine's 80th brigade hit a landmine about 75 kilometres (45 miles) west of the Russian border.

They provided no other details and warned the toll was only preliminary as an investigation was under way.

The insurgents in turn accused Ukraine's forces of wounding two of their soldiers in an overnight attack on the rebels' stronghold of Donetsk.

Two civilians were also reported killed in the Lugansk province on Saturday after one of them set off a trip wire which triggered a mine.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told the UN Security Council on Monday he remained "deeply concerned over the continuing violations of the ceasefire" agreed in February 2015.

A series of periodic truce deals that followed have been able to abate some of the violence but not completely halt a 23-month conflict that has claimed more than 9,000 lives.

Many of the recent civilian and military casualties have been caused mines and similar devices that have been scattered by both sides across a vast area.

Ukraine's state emergencies service has reported special teams clearing the ravaged war zone of more than 44,000 explosive devices by mid-October 2015.

But the two sides and foreign monitors are struggling to estimate how many such weapons remain.

The United Nations estimated in January that 80 percent of civilian casualties suffered in the preceding few months had been caused by mines and trip wires.

Its special assessment mission said last month "that mines, booby traps, and unexploded ordnance have a serious impact in eastern Ukraine and constitute a major threat to civilians."

Efforts to mitigating the remaining danger have stalled in negotiations periodically conducted by Russian and Ukrainian envoys in the Belarussian capital Minsk

Kiev and its Western allies accuse Russia of orchestrating the uprising and supporting in with troops and weapons throughout the war.

Moscow denies the charges and claims that the United States was behind the street protests that toppled Ukraine's Russian-backed president in February 2014.

© 2016 AFP

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