Ukraine vi­o­lence eases af­ter the West con­demns at­tacks

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Ukraine on Tues­day said proRus­sian rebels had sharply re­duced their at­tacks in the wake of Western con­dem­na­tion of the most deadly vi­o­lence in the sep­a­ratist east in more than a month.

A top mil­i­tary spokesman in Kiev re­ported the death of one soldier and the in­jury of another in the Rus­sian-speak­ing prov­inces of Lu­gansk and Donetsk.

But the mil­i­tary also noted a “sharp drop-off in the num­ber of provoca­tive at­tacks on Ukrainian po­si­tions.”

The in­sur­gents also re­ported no ini­tial ca­su­al­ties from overnight at­tacks that have been waged daily since the two sides signed up to a Fe­bru­ary ar­mistice that only helped con­tain bat­tles to se­lect hotspots.

The two sides on Mon­day re­ported the death of at least 10 sol­diers and civil­ians — the blood­i­est 24-hour span in more than a month, spark­ing in­ter­na­tional con­dem­na­tion and fears of a re­turn to all-out war.

U. N. Sec­re­tary- Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon said he was “se­ri­ously alarmed” by Mon­day’s death toll while Euro­pean Com­mis­sion spokes­woman Cather­ine Ray said in Brus­sels: “We re­ally strongly con­demn this es­ca­la­tion.”

The clashes cul­mi­nated a rest­less week in the for­mer Soviet na­tion that saw the num­ber of rocket and heavy ar­tillery fire ex­changes es­ca­late sharply, seem­ingly with­out ex­pla­na­tion.

The mili­tias have been try­ing to seize a road link­ing their de facto cap­i­tal Donetsk with Mar­i­upol — a south­east­ern port held by the gov­ern­ment and re­spon­si­ble for ex­port­ing much of the in­dus­trial re­gion’s fac­tory out­put.

Mar­i­upol also pro­vides a land bridge be­tween eastern rebel ter­ri­to­ries and the Crimea penin­sula that Rus­sia seized from Ukraine in March 2014.

But Mon­day’s deaths were re­ported in strikes across the war zone.

The wor­ry­ing de­vel­op­ment sparked a new diplo­matic flareup be­tween Moscow — which firmly de­nies ei­ther arm­ing or fund­ing the re­volt — and Western pow­ers who want to prop up Kiev’s new pro-Euro­pean lead­ers against what they view as Rus­sian ag­gres­sion.

“There can be no mis­take as to who is re­spon­si­ble — Rus­sia and the sep­a­ratists are launch­ing these at­tacks, just as they es­ca­lated the con­flict last Au­gust,” U.S. for­eign minstry spokesman John Kirby told re­porters.

He ap­peared to be re­fer­ring to Ukraine’s loss of hun­dreds of sol­diers who were sur­rounded by a far more heav­ily-armed mili­tia force in the eastern town of Ilo­vaysk a year ago.

Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov said the re­cent rise of at­tacks sig­naled the im­mi­nent launch of a Kiev of­fen­sive on the sep­a­ratist-con­trolled re­gions.

“We are con­cerned by the course of events in re­cent days which very strongly re­sem­bles the prepa­ra­tion for more mil­i­tary ac­tion,” Lavrov said.

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