Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko claimed that clashes in the eastern Ukrainian town of Marinka have halted, as pro-Russian separatists are expelled from the town. He also said Ukrainian police arrested one Russian and 11 "saboteurs."
Poroshenko’s claim has not been confirmed by the pro-Russian separatist rebels in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).
On Friday, Poroshenko held a news conference in which he said Ukraine sent nearly 50,000 military personnel to its eastern borders in response to Russia’s sending of troops to the Ukrainian borders. However, his claims were denied by Russian government officials.
Meanwhile, DPR leader Alexander Zakharchenko said that 400 Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 1,000 more injured during the armed conflict in Marinka.
"This was a counter-attack. If we had attacked, we would have captured Marinka," he added.
Zakharchenko claimed that 15 DPR fighters were killed and 30 of them were injured in the battle. On the other hand, Ukrainian officials claimed that Ukrainian troops killed 80 “rebels” in the armed conflict.
The deputy chief of the OSCE monitoring mission Alexander Hug said that “the violence witnessed in and around the town of Marinka close to the [frontline] constitutes a new worrying development in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.”
"Our assessment from the ground is that tension levels have increased and that ceasefire violations are becoming more frequent as well as more severe."
On Thursday, Poroshenko said the Ukrainian military to be prepared for a “full scale of invasion” by Russian armed forces into the separatist eastern region where fierce fighting is increasing in breach of the terms of the Minsk peace accord.
His speech marked the first time he used the term “invasion” when referring to Russia’s military presence in the Donbass region during his parliamentary address a day after a shelling attack in Marinka.
Russia to support the Minsk peace agreements
On Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that “Russia is interested in and will strive to ensure the full and unconditional implementation of the Minsk Agreements.”
“It is time to begin implementing the Minsk Agreements. The problem is that the current Kiev authorities don’t even want to sit down to talks with them. And there is nothing we can do about it,” Putin added.
“Only our European and American partners can influence this situation.”
Ukraine’s separatist war cooled after the OSCE-mediated ceasefire was sealed in the Belarussian capital of Minsk, but the fragile peace has been sporadically violated by both Kiev forces and the separatists.
The Kiev government has vowed to protect its territorial integrity as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has reiterated several times since the conflict stated that his country will retake the breakaway regions.
The Ukrainian leadership still suspects Moscow is not abiding with the armistice agreed in Minsk since violations have recently increased again in the Donbass region.
Ukrainian Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak said on Thursday that Russia has been keeping its frontline forces in its east where Kiev army and the pro-Russian separatists could soon resume the clashes despite the fragile ceasefire.
Russia denies the allegations by Kiev and says that its soldiers have only been patrolling Russia’s porous border with the eastern Ukraine.
Authorities in Ukraine displayed two Russian soldiers who were captured during a battle with the pro-Russian separatists in the country’s east last month.
The capture of the soldiers came just days after the release of a report published by the Russian opposition claiming at least 220 Russian soldiers were killed in the war in eastern Ukraine in the past year.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg urged Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to pull back all troops and heavy artillery from Ukraine and to stop supporting the separatists in the region.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced this month that the separatist war in the east has caused the death of 7,000 people so far, while the UN reported this week the death toll from Ukraine’s one year of conflict is 6,417 people.