First deaths reported in Ukraine shake ceasefire

imgUkraine on Friday reported the first deaths in three days in east Ukraine, denting hopes a ceasefire will hold, and President Petro Poroshenko said Russia would pose a “military threat” even if the truce is solid.
Government troops fighting pro-Russian separatists in the east began towing artillery away from the front line on Thursday, a sign that Ukraine’s military recognised a ceasefire meant to take effect on February 15 was at last holding.
But Kiev’s military later announced the deaths of three servicemen in the past 24 hours, following two full days without fatalities that had raised hopes of the truce holding.
“Even under the most optimistic scenario … the military threat from the east would unfortunately remain,” Poroshenko said, referring indirectly to Russia in a televised speech at the National Defence University.
Kiev and Western governments have accused Russia of sending troops and weapons to support the separatists in east Ukraine, despite a peace deal agreed in the Belarussian capital Minsk on February 12, but Moscow has denied this.
The situation in the conflict zone was “relatively calm” overnight, Ukrainian military spokesman Anatoly Stelmakh said, although he reported isolated attacks by rebels on Ukrainian troop positions.

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