Ukraine requests UN emergency meeting over fresh fighting
Fighting that killed nearly 30 people including a small child over the past few days has sparked fears of a resumption of large-scale hostilities in violation of a ceasefire agreed in February.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko warned Friday of a threat of a full-blown Russian invasion in the east where a child was killed and several wounded in a fresh bout of violence over the past 24 hours.
Ukraine has accused pro-Moscow rebels of going on the offensive, while separatist forces say they are merely defending themselves and the region’s Russian speakers.
Poroshenko said on Friday that Russia had deployed “an unprecedented” number of troops on the border with Ukraine as well as claiming there are already thousands of troops in the rebel-held east of the ex-Soviet country.
“There has never been such an amount of troops near our borders since August,” Poroshenko told reporters, referring to the height of the hostilities that Kiev claims involved regular Russian troops.
“I believe that there must be a reason to have such a powerful force in place. The threat of Russian invasion is unprecedented.”
In his annual address to parliament the previous day, Poroshenko warned of a “colossal threat” of a serious escalation, claiming that more than 9,000 Russian soldiers were now in Ukraine to support the insurgency.
– West concerned –
The United States, the EU and Germany all expressed alarm over the renewed violence, with Washington warning Russia it would face new punishment if the crisis escalated.
The Ukraine crisis will be high on the agenda of a G7 meeting that will be held in the Bavarian Alps without Russia this weekend.
Poroshenko said he would speak by phone with US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of the gathering.
Poroshenko was also set to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is to visit Kiev ahead of the summit in a show of support.
The Kremlin has accused Kiev of seeking to torpedo the fragile truce ahead of an EU summit in June which will discuss whether to extend sanctions against Russia that are set to expire in July.
Major clashes on Wednesday erupted near the settlement of Maryinka, just west of Donetsk, and the two warring sides reported fresh instances of shelling Thursday evening, albeit on a smaller scale.
Poroshenko said Maryinka was now under government control, adding that the Ukrainian army had detained 12 rebels including a Russian national.
Separatist forces for their part accused the Ukrainian army of targeting the rebel stronghold of Donetsk and its surroundings.
“As a result of shelling of Telmanove, one child was killed and three adults were wounded,” senior rebel commander Eduard Basurin told AFP, referring to a village south of the rebel stronghold.
Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian army, said four soldiers had been wounded over the past 24 hours.
– ‘Everything but submarines’ –
The Ukrainian army admitted it resorted to the use of heavy artillery banned by the European-brokered peace agreement and accused the rebels of using weapons also prohibited by the truce deal.
“From 6 pm (1500 GMT) on June 4 until midnight (2100 GMT) more than 40 instances of shelling were recorded,” the military said.
The army reported shelling at several villages around Donetsk, including Maryinka.
The rebels also fired on a village in the rebel-held region of Lugansk and another village near the government-controlled city of Mariupol, the military said.
Since midnight, the shelling had abated, the army said.
Kiev and the West accuse Moscow of backing the Russian-speaking rebels with weapons, money and troops.
“The entire Russian military arsenal is already there, everything but submarines,” Poroshenko said on Friday.
More than 6,400 people have been killed in the fighting since April 2014, according to the United Nations.
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