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No significant increase in Eastern Ukraine clashes despite Crimea tension

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No significant increase in Eastern Ukraine clashes despite Crimea tension

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Even with tensions again high between Moscow and Kyiv over Crimea, Ukraine has said there has not been any significant increase in fighting in the east of the country where there are regular clashes between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian army troops.

The fragile ceasefire in the Donbass region continues. A peace plan negotiated in Minsk between Ukraine and Russia by Germany and France some 18-month ago, has stalled for months.

One soldier on the conflict line told Reuters: “Frankly, nothing much has changed for us. We are always on high alert here. The only thing is we are preparing ourselves mentally for something bigger. We believe that soon we could be involved in more serious military action.”

“We’re used to it”

In the east it is more than a war of words. Civilian casualties from shelling, mines and booby traps in eastern Ukraine are at their highest in a year, the United Nations’ human rights chief has said.

The locals live with it. In the village of Marinka one woman said: “The shelling happens daily. Every evening we just go out with children. We’ve got used to it.” Asked if she was scared she replied, against a background of artillery shells falling: “No. We are not afraid of anything anymore.”

The latest tension comes as Russia accused Ukraine of incursions into Crimea, the region it annexed in 2014.

The Russian security agency has released video it said was of saboteurs who were entering the peninsula with explosives.

Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Kiev on Wednesday of using terrorist tactics to try to provoke a new conflict and destabilise Crimea.

Ukraine has denied Russia’s assertions.

The United States has seen nothing so far that corroborates Russian allegations of a Ukrainian incursion into Crimea, the US ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, said earlier this week.

Diplomatic efforts

The Russian and German foreign ministers, Sergei Lavrov and Frank-Walter Steinmeier, will meet on Monday to discuss the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Saturday.

The Foreign Ministry said on its website the meeting will take place in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg.

US Vice President Joe Biden spoke by phone on Friday with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and urged him “to do his part” to avoid escalating tensions with Russia, the White House said.

Biden noted that the United States has urged the Russian side to do the same.

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