Ukrainian soldier killed in war-torn separatist east

Photo: AP A Ukrainian soldier is seen at fighting positions on the line of separation from pro-Russian rebels near Luhansk, Ukraine, 16 April 2021.

An Ukrainian soldier was killed and one more wounded in the conflict-ridden east, the military said Monday, hours before high-profile talks aimed at de-escalating tensions between Kiev and Moscow, AFP reports.

Clashes with Ukrainian forces and Moscow-backed separatists have flared in the east in recent weeks, shredding a ceasefire brokered last year.

Kiev has been battling pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions since 2014, following Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula.

After a recent uptick in violence, Russia has built up troops along the border, raising fears of a major escalation in the long-running conflict in Ukraine’s mainly Russian-speaking east.

One Ukrainian soldier was killed and one more wounded after their positions were attacked with automatic grenade launchers on Sunday, the army said in a statement posted on Facebook.

The talks between advisers to the heads of state of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France are scheduled to be held later on Monday in Kiev.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said after a meeting with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron last week that he hoped the talks would lead to a return to the ceasefire.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Monday the bloc’s foreign ministers would discuss the “very dangerous” situation during their virtual meeting.

The Kremlin, which has not denied the troop movements, said it is not moving towards war with Ukraine, but warned it “will not remain indifferent” to the fate of Russian speakers in the east.

The conflict, which has claimed more than 13,000 lives, has seen 30 Ukrainian soldiers killed since the start of the year compared to 50 in all of 2020.

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