Ukraine accuses Russia of violating truce agreements after shelling accusations

Russia has denied planning any attacks, while Ukraine military denied accusations that government troops attacked.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Thursday said Russia was violating ceasefire agreements under the Minsk accords after Kyiv earlier accused Russian-backed separatists of shelling a village.

Russian-backed rebels and Ukrainian forces traded accusations that each had fired across the ceasefire line, raising alarm at a time when Western countries have warned of the possibility of a Russian invasion any day.

“Civilian infrastructure damaged. We call on all partners to swiftly condemn this severe violation of Minsk agreements by Russia amid an already tense security situation,” Kuleba tweeted.

Such incidents have occurred many times over the past eight years but this clash comes after Russia has massed more than 100,000 troops close to Ukraine’s borders while demanding that NATO pledge not to accept Ukraine as a member.

The West has threatened Russia with new sanctions if it attacks Ukraine; Russia denies planning any attacks.

Any escalation in the years-long conflict between the Russian-backed separatists, who seized a swath of territory in eastern Ukraine in 2014, could fuel tension between Russia and the West.

US intelligence agencies said this month they believed Russia might fabricate a pretext for an invasion of Ukraine, possibly by producing videos showing a staged attack. Russia dismissed that.

The assertions about shelling were made in a statement issued by representatives of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic.

It said Ukrainian forces had used mortars, grenade launchers and a machine gun in four separate incidents on Thursday.

“Armed forces of Ukraine have crudely violated the ceasefire regime, using heavy weapons, which, according to the Minsk agreements, should be withdrawn,” the separatists said in a statement.

Russia said this week it was pulling back some troops from areas adjacent to Ukraine after concluding exercises but Kyiv said it had seen no evidence of that and the United States said it suspected Moscow has in fact increased its presence by as many as 7,000 troops. Read full story

Russia’s lower house of parliament voted on Tuesday to ask President Vladimir Putin to recognize the two self-proclaimed separatist republics in eastern Ukraine as independent.

The Kremlin has signaled Putin has no immediate plans to do that.

The Ukrainian Defence Ministry said on Thursday that pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine had stopped shelling as of 1 P.M. local time.

Kyiv and its Western allies said earlier they feared that Russia might be trying to create a pretext to unleash war, after reports of shelling across the front line in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

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