The UN Security Council has unanimously called for an immediate return to a ceasefire in Ukraine after three days of fighting left at least 13 dead. The council endorsed a Ukrainian-drafted statement that did not raise objections from Russia, after meeting behind closed doors to discuss the violence in east Ukraine. Council members on Tuesday “expressed grave concern about the dangerous deterioration of the situation in eastern Ukraine and its severe impact on the local civilian population.”
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They “condemned the use of weapons prohibited by the Minsk agreements along the contact line in Donetsk region that lead to deaths and injuries, including among civilians.” The Minsk agreements, backed by France and Germany, lay out a series of measures to end the conflict in east Ukraine, but its implementation has been faltering.
The latest bout of fighting has focused on the town of Avdiivka, which is in government-controlled territory. About 20,000 residents have been left without electricity. “The members of the Security Council called for an immediate return to a ceasefire regime,” said the statement.
Russia has in the past routinely blocked draft statements submitted by Ukraine, a non-permanent council member. Ukrainian Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko told journalists following the council meeting that the violence in east Ukraine could be considered war crimes.
“We think that these actions by Russia and Russian proxies may qualify as a war crime, a gross violation of the Geneva Conventions,” Yelchenko said. The Ukrainian ambassador met Monday with new US Ambassador Nikki Haley who reaffirmed “the United States’ support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” the US mission said in a statement.
There had been speculation that President Donald Trump’s drive for friendlier ties with Russia would be at the expense of Ukraine, which accuses Moscow of backing separatist fighters in the east.
The situation in east Ukraine will be discussed again tomorrow when the UN’s top political affairs official Jeffrey Feltman and UN aid chief Stephen O’Brien report to the council on the latest developments. The conflict has killed nearly 10,000 people since 2014 –more than half of them civilians.
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