Conflicts & War

Ukraine, Lithuania presidents blame Russia for escalations in Eastern Ukraine

Kiev, Mar 18 (efe-epa).- The presidents of Ukraine and Lithuania on Thursday accused Russian-backed separatist forces of violating ceasefires in Eastern Ukraine.

Volodymyr Zelensky and Gitanas Nauseda made the remarks at a joint press briefing in Kiev.

“We have noticed worrying tendencies for the security situation in the Eastern Ukraine, an increase in provocations and attempts to undermine the ceasefire, lack of progress in the Minsk agreements implementation on behalf of Russian Federation,” Zelensky said.

“We are seeing Russian aggression and an increasing number of violations,” noted his Lithuanian counterpart Gitanas Nauseda. “We don’t see Russia’s intention to end the war and call for strengthening of the sanctions.”

In recent days, Ukraine has denounced an increase in mortar fire and sniper attacks on its positions along the contact line by Russian-backed fighters. Two Ukrainian servicemen were killed and several were wounded this month, according to the Joint Forces Operation press centre.

President Zelensky declined to answer a question on whether he believes the escalation on the frontline is a reaction to Ukraine’s decision to ban three TV stations linked to a pro-Kremlin politician in February.

Zelensky has defended the move, saying it’s a part of his strategy to “defend Ukraine from the information war” and from the attempts to “undermine Ukraine’s independence from inside”.

He also said he was ready to meet Normandy Four representatives individually while there is still no agreement about a joint meeting of the group that comprises Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany.

The Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office in Ukraine confirmed an increase in ceasefire violations in Eastern Ukraine, while noting that it was still lower than the average 2020 level.

In a statement following the meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group on March 17, Ambassador Heidi Grau called on all parties to “refrain from any actions or statements that could be perceived as provocative or leading to increased tensions.”

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