Conflicts & War

Ukrainian president visits Donbas amid Russian troop buildup

Olga Tokariuk

Kiev, Apr 8 (efe-epa).- Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky visited military positions in Donbas on Thursday in a show of support to Ukrainian soldiers on the frontline in eastern Ukraine amid growing tensions with Russia, which has reportedly been amassing troops near the border.

Zelensky visited the areas where increasing violations of ceasefire on behalf of Russian-backed separatists were registered in recent days, the president’s office said. Five Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in Donbas this week.

The president paid his respects to the fallen soldiers with a minute of silence. “You are a real example of heroism and sacrifice. We remember every serviceman who lost his life while protecting our country,” he said.

Ukraine has accused the Russian-backed forces of increasing provocations in Donbas in recent days. This is the most significant escalation of the conflict in eastern Ukraine since the ceasefire was agreed in July 2020, it said.

At an extraordinary meeting of the Trilateral contact group yesterday, representatives of Ukraine, Russia and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) urged all parties to observe the ceasefire but failed to issue a joint declaration because of Russia’s, the Ukrainian delegation said.

Ukraine also denounced a massive build-up of Russian military on its border. According to the chief of staff of Ukrainian armed forces Ruslan Khomchak, as of March 31 Russia has sent 28 tactical military groups to the Ukrainian border.

The US, NATO and the EU have expressed concern over the movement of Russian military vehicles and personnel near the border with Ukraine.

In a phone conversation on Thursday with Russian president Vladimir Putin, German chancellor Angela Merkel urged Moscow to reduce its troop buildup near the border with Ukraine, her office said.

Meanwhile, on an urgent visit to Kiev at Ukraine’s invitation, Poland’s minister of foreign affairs Zbigniew Rau has assured his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba of his country’s support against any Russian aggression. Poland is one of Ukraine’s closest allies in the EU.

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