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Ukraine conflict negotiators fail to agree Easter truce

By AFP - Apr 29,2021 - Last updated at Apr 29,2021

A Ukrainian serviceman loads a machine gun in a dugout on the front line with Russia-backed separatists, not far from the settlement of Verkhnyotoretske, Donetsk region, on Wednesday (AFP photo)

KIEV — Negotiators in the Ukraine conflict have failed in efforts to agree a new ceasefire ahead of Orthodox Easter on Sunday, international observers said.

Fighting between Kiev's forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine has surged since the start of the year, raising concerns of a major re-escalation in the long-running conflict.

Tensions with Moscow also spiked after Russia sent tens of thousands of extra troops to its borders with Ukraine, but Russia said the troops were being withdrawn last week, after warnings from NATO.

Negotiators from Ukraine, Russia and the separatists on Wednesday held talks on a ceasefire for Easter but could not agree, monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said in a statement.

"Regrettably, no agreement was reached... on responding to ceasefire violations and their elimination in the future," the monitors said.

The spokesman of the Ukrainian delegation, Oleksiy Arestovych, told news agency Interfax-Ukraine that the six hours of talks on an "Easter truce" had been "constructive" but that a final text could not be agreed.

Moscow representative Boris Gryzlov blamed Ukraine, telling Interfax that Kiev had "blocked Russia's proposals on specific mechanisms to prevent violations" of a ceasefire.

A previous ceasefire that was agreed last July had brought relative calm to the frontline, but fell apart from the start of this year.

Kiev has been battling pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions since 2014, following Moscow's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, with the conflict claiming 13,000 lives.

The separatists are widely seen as having Russia's political and military backing, which Moscow denies.

Ukraine says at least 32 of its soldiers have been killed since the start of 2021, compared to 50 in all of 2020, while the separatists have reported at least 20 fighters killed.


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