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Alarm over heavy clashes in Ukraine

February 1, 2017

At least 13 people have been killed and dozens injured in heavy clashes between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed rebels. The election of US President Donald Trump has given Moscow scope to drive the insurgency.

UN Sicherheitsrat in New York zur Lage in Syrien, Aleppo
Image: Getty Images/D. Angerer

The United Nations Security Council on Tuesday expressed its "grave concern" over the "dangerous deterioration" in eastern Ukraine, calling for an immediate end to violence.

Clashes between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed rebels intensified on Sunday, resulting in the worst military losses suffered since both sides agreed a new truce in December.

Thousands of locals in the flashpoint town of Avdiivka are without water and power. They have found themselves forced to struggle through conditions in which temperatures can drop to as low as minus 20 Celsius (minus 4 Fahrenheit) at night.

"The members of the Security Council expressed their full support of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine," a statement drafted by Kyiv and issued by the Security Council said. "The members of the Security Council called for an immediate return to a ceasefire regime."

The Security Council currently includes both Russia, a permanent member, and Ukraine, a rotating member. While both countries accused the other of sparking the latest offensive, Moscow did not raise any objections to the Kyiv-drafted statement and acknowledged "the severe impact" the unrest has had on the local population.

What now for Ukraine in the Trump era?

Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko underscored the urgency of the situation by cutting short Monday's visit to Berlin to converge a meeting of his National Security and Defense Council.

The Ukrainian leader has reportedly voiced his concern over new President Donald Trump's praise for the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, fearing that it could encourage Moscow to once again drive the insurgency and refuel the nearly-three year conflict.

Trump has also said he will consider lifting sanctions against Russia, which were imposed following Russia's annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.

However, the US State Department on Tuesday voiced its concern over the escalation in violence in a separate statement and reaffirmed Washington's desire to see the full implementation of the 2015 Minsk peace agreement brokered by Germany and France.

"To avert a larger humanitarian crisis, we call for an immediate, sustained cease-fire and full and unfettered access for OSCE monitors," State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said in the statement.

The conflict in Ukraine has claimed more than 9,700 lives since fighting broke out in 2014.

dm/kms (AP, AFP, Reuters)