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Three Ukraine soldiers killed despite lull, UN to discuss truce

Three Ukraine soldiers killed despite lull, UN to discuss truce
Isolated clashes were reported in eastern Ukraine on Friday, where government forces reported three soldiers killed, despite a truce with pro-Russian rebels appearing to take hold.

After two days in which neither side had reported any casualties, Kiev said three troops died and seven others were wounded in the past 24 hours, highlighting the fragility of the February 12 peace dea.

Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said that the fighting had halted along most of the frontline but there were still clashes in villages around the ruins of Donetsk airport, one of the most fought-over prizes in the conflict, which fell to the rebels last month. The latest skirmishes came as the UN geared up to discuss the conflict exactly one year after Russia began seizing ports and cities on the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea.

Russia’s annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine sparked the worst East-West standoff since the Cold War.

A year on, the West is hoping the UN-backed truce deal negotiated by Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France in Minsk can prevent a further escalation.

After an initial setback, caused by a rebel assault on the transport hub of Debaltseve, the deal appeared to be gaining traction this week. Both sides said they were continuing to withdraw heavy weapons from along the frontline, a key part of the plan to end ten months of bloodshed in eastern Ukraine that has cost at least 5,800 lives.

Kiev said yesterday that it had started withdrawing 100-mm cannons, while the rebels claim they have nearly completed their pull-back. Monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, however, told AFP that while they had seen weapon movements on both sides it was too early to confirm that a full withdrawal was taking place.
Agencies

Agencies

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