Ukraine’s president visits Donbass as tensions rise with Russia
KYIV (Reuters) – President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he was visiting eastern Ukraine on Thursday, following rising tensions with Russia over a long-running conflict.
Kyiv has raised alarm over a gathering of Russian forces near the border between Ukraine and Russia and over an increase in violence along the line of contact separating Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine’s Donbass region.
Russia says troop movements are defensive, and a senior Russian official has said Moscow has no plans to intervene in the conflict in eastern Ukraine that began in 2014.
As Commander-in-Chief, I want to be with our soldiers in tough times in #Donbas. Going to escalation sites, Zelenskiy wrote on Twitter.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the Zelenskiys chief of staff, told Reuters the president wanted to assess the situation in the country directly.
Zelenskiy called on NATO on Tuesday to determine a path for Ukraine to join the Western military alliance. His comments drew immediate reprimand from Moscow, which said Kyiv’s approach to NATO could further fuel the situation.
Ukraine and Russia have exchanged blame for escalating violence in the conflict, which Kyiv says has killed 14,000 people since 2014. Russia, which annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, has denied sending troops and heavy weapons to the Donbass. .
Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists accuse each other of violating a ceasefire in Donbass. Zelenskiy said this week that 24 Ukrainian servicemen had been killed so far this year.
Another Ukrainian soldier was killed in bombings by separatist forces Thursday morning, bringing the death toll to five in the past three days, the Ukrainian military said.
RIP to the 23-year-old soldier who was shot last night. Ukraine needs peace and will do everything for it, Zelenskiy wrote on Twitter.
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