A Ukrainian soldier patrols a checkpoint near Mariupol, in eastern Ukraine A Ukrainian soldier patrols a checkpoint near Mariupol, in eastern Ukraine 

Ukraine soldiers killed as tensions rise in eastern areas

Ukraine says at least two soldiers were killed and another wounded in recent days in clashes between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed separatists. The military claims the latest reported clashes rose the death toll to at least 36 Ukrainian soldiers killed in the east this year.

By Stefan J. Bos

Ukraine's government and the West have expressed alarm about a flareup in violence between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

They have been fighting Ukraine since 2014, but in recent days several Ukrainian soldiers were killed, and the military says scores of troops died this year alone.

Russia claims it has no military presence in eastern Ukraine and vehemently denies wrongdoing. But critics say it fueled new tensions this year by massing troops and large-scale military exercises near its border with Ukraine.

Amid the tensions, Ukraine's President marked the anniversary of World War II's end in Europe by visiting a village along the Russian border, where hostilities escalated during the recent Russian military buildup.

President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the village of Milovoe in eastern Ukraine accompanied by ambassadors from the European Union and the Group of Seven wealthy nations.

Earlier, foreign ministers from Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg visited the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine before meeting with Ukraine's president and foreign minister in what they called a show of support to Kyiv.

US support

Separately, President Zelenskyy met US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who told the president that Washington supports Ukraine's battle for sovereignty against what it views as Moscow's aggression.

"We stand with you against aggression. We stand with you too as you work to strengthen your democracy, build your institutions, combat corruption, and advance reforms," Blinken stressed.

Zelensky said he appreciated the US support for Ukraine's independence and sovereignty.

However, more than 14,000 people have died in the conflict, and negotiating a political settlement has stalled.

Tensions also remain high over Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula in 2014, which sparked Western sanctions.

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09 May 2021, 16:49