18th Feb 2020

EU urges both sides to stop shelling in Ukraine

  • Ukrainian artillery position near the front line in east Ukraine (Photo: Christopher Bobyn)

The EU foreign service has urged both sides to stop ceasefire violations in Ukraine, in a situation described as “explosive” by Germany.

Its spokeswoman, Catherine Ray, told press in Brussels on Monday (17 August): “We really strongly condemn this escalation of fighting and we call on all sides to cease it and to observe the ceasefire”.

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The US State Department the same day blamed Russia’s hybrid forces for the flare-up.

“There can be no mistake about who is responsible: Russia and the separatists are launching these attacks, just as they escalated the conflict last August”, its spokesman, John Kirby, said in Washington.

“Efforts by Russia and the separatists to grab more territory will be met with further costs”.

For its part, Ukraine says that a Russian “terrorist attack” used artillery to fire on civilian homes in villages on the outskirts of Mariupol in south-east Ukraine in the small hours of Monday morning, killing three civilians and two soldiers.

It says the attack is part of a “significant aggravation” over the past week, in which the Russian side shelled its positions more than 850 times, including 175 times on Friday.

The international monitors in the region, the OSCE, noted in their latest report, also on Monday, that “a significant increase in ceasefire violations was observed in [Ukraine] government-controlled areas” over the weekend, however.

The Russian FM, Sergei Lavrov, said the "Ukrainian leadership is escalating the situation".

Spokesmen for the Russian-occupied parts of Donetsk in east Ukraine also said five civilians were killed.

The German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, described the atmosphere as “explosive” in an interview with the Bild daily on Sunday.

Lithuania’s foreign minister, Linas Linkevicius, said on Twitter on Monday that Russia appears to be trying to undo the so-called Minsk ceasefire accord.

He also drew attention to Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s visit to Russian-occupied Crimea on Monday, ostensibly, to promote tourism, as another provocation.

“Putin‘s trip to Ukraine‘s Crimea and increased fatal violence by separatists look like co-ordinated efforts to undermine Minsk agreements”, Linkevicius noted.

Putin himself didn’t comment on the violence.

He used his trip to portray Crimea, which has seen a purge on the native Tatar population since Russia took control, as “a mirror of multi-ethnic Russia” which respects minority rights.

He also complained that Ukraine is “under external control”, referring to Kiev’s appointment of three foreign-born cabinet ministers and a foreign-born governor in the Odessa region.

Petro Poroshenko, the Ukrainian president, echoed Lithuania, saying the Putin trip is "a continuation of the plan to escalate the situation”.

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