Ukraine on Friday denounced an escalation of violence on the front lines with pro-Russian separatists in the eastern part of the country, calling on the West to intervene while Moscow said it feared a “total war” in the region.
“We have been witnessing an escalation of the conflict in recent weeks,” said Andriy Germak, head of the Ukrainian presidential administration, during a teleconference.
“Premeditated challenges are under way against the Ukrainian armed forces to end” the fragile ceasefire that has been in place since July, the largest since the war broke out in 2014, “he continued.
Germak called on Washington and Kiev’s European allies, such as Paris and Berlin, “sponsors” of the peace process, to “intensify” their efforts to calm the situation.
The war in Ukraine’s Donbass, which has killed more than 13,000 people since the outbreak, began after a pro-Russian Ukrainian president fled to Russia and pro-Westerners arrived in Kiev. In the wake of this regime change, Moscow annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.
After months of heavy fighting, the hostilities escalated to a large extent with the signing of the Minsk peace agreements in February 2015.
Four years later, former actor Volodymyr Zelensky was elected President of Ukraine with the promise of ending the war. However, after some time progress – a summit, some prisoner exchanges and the withdrawal of troops from several small front line areas – the peace process was again at an impasse.
Pressure on Kiev
In 2020, the warring parties managed to agree on a new ceasefire, which was more or less respected for months, which left hopes for a more lasting settlement.
Last year, Ukraine reported 50 soldiers dead in its ranks compared to 100 in 2019, a decrease mainly due to this truce, but since the beginning of the year, the tension has gradually begun to rise again.
“We have what has not happened to us for months, we have some of our trips (to the conflict zone) that had to be postponed because shots were fired overnight,” said Florence Gillett, head of her delegation. International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Ukraine.
Kiev has implicated Moscow and the separatists in accusing them of using weapons banned by the Minsk peace agreements.
Since mid-February, eight Ukrainian soldiers have been killed on the front line. Kiev has accused Moscow and the separatists of using weapons banned by the Minsk peace agreements.
The separatists announced the death of three fighters on Friday.
The Kremlin on Thursday expressed “deep concern over rising tensions” at the front, blaming Kiev.
“We are seeing more and more bombings coming from the Ukrainian side,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peshkov, warning of the risk of a repeat of a “total war.”
Despite its denials, Russia is considered in Kiev and the western capitals to be a supporter of the separatists by giving them troops, weapons and funding.
“Russia is a party to this conflict, not a mediator,” European Council President Charles Michel said on Tuesday during a visit to the front lines in Ukraine.
“Moscow is trying to put pressure on Kiev, to intimidate it,” said Oleksandr Litvinenko, director of the Institute for Strategic Studies in Kiev.