Ukrainian authorities on Thursday confirmed that five soldiers were killed in fighting over the past 24 hours, while pro-Russian separatists stated that 14 rebels and 5 civilians died during the ongoing offensive.
Yuri Biryukov, a presidential aide, confirmed the number of casualties through his facebook page, stating that 39 soldiers were also wounded in the ongoing battle.
On Wednesday Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists engaged in their first major clash in months in eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine’s defence minister said the pro-Russian separatists have launched a new offensive in an attempt to gain the eastern town Maryinka.
A spokesman for the Ukrainian military Thursday morning reported on the tense situation in Maryinka and said that, “On three occasions the [separatist] fighters shelled our positions during the night. At the moment there is an operation going on to find sabotage and diversionary groups.”
Russia preparing for a “full-scale invasion”
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Thursday said during his annual address to parliament that Russia is preparing for a “full-scale invasion” along its joint border with Ukraine and that there are 9,000 Russian soldiers in Ukrainian territory.
“The military must be ready as much for a renewal of an offensive by the enemy in the Donbass as they are for a full-scale invasion along the whole length of the border with Russia. We must be truly ready for this,” said Poroshenko.
Despite the recent conflict the Kremlin is accusing Kiev of provoking the renewed fighting in eastern Ukraine, stating that Ukraine is pushing for the European Union to come up with a definite agreement to boost sanctions on Russia.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that “The Ukrainian side has taken steps to aggravate tensions many times in the past in the run up to some major international events. This used to happen and we are seriously concerned now over the most recent manifestation of such activity.”
Following the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea in March 2014, the EU and US issued several sanctions on September 14, 2014 aimed at restricting Moscow’s banking, energy and arms industries following accusations Russia is providing military and political support to pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov also stated that Kiev is responsible for the renewed fighting and that it is trying to break the peace deal which is under “constant threat.”
“The February 12 Minsk agreements are under constant threat of breaking down because of the actions of the Kiev authorities who are trying to avoid fulfilling their obligations to establish direct dialogue with the Donbass,” said Lavrov.