One Ukrainian soldier was killed and four wounded during heavy shelling in Ukraine’s eastern provinces in the early hours of February 18, according to Ukraine’s Joint Forces Operation, which oversees the military situation at the frontline.
One of the militants was also reported killed in action, and five wounded on the other side of the contact line.
The shelling took place in violation of a ceasefire agreed in the 2015 Minsk peace deal, and reiterated in December during a Normandy Four Summit, which includes presidents of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France.
The new escalation comes in the midst of preparations for the next Normandy summit, which is expected to take place this spring.
The Ukrainian side accused Russian-backed forces of using heavy artillery banned by the peace accord, and of attempts to break through the contact line.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky called the shelling “a cynical provocation” by Russia-backed forces, and “an attempt to disrupt the peace process in the Donbass, which began to move forward, albeit in small but unstoppable steps.”
He convened a National Security and Defense Council meeting to discuss the escalation.
Zelensky praised the Ukrainian army for its reaction to shelling after the meeting, and said that the country’s course for peace will remain unwavering.
“We are confident that this provocation will not change our course, because only with a strong army can we sit at the negotiating table. We are moving confidently, approaching the end of the war and peace,” Zelensky said at a briefing after the meeting.
The conflict in the east of Ukraine killed some 13,000 people since 2014, including 11 soldiers in January.