Fresh deadly east Ukraine clashes

Four Ukrainian servicemen have been killed and 14 wounded in fighting with Russia-backed militants in the past 24 hours

Fresh deadly east Ukraine clashes

World Bulletin / News Desk

Kyiv on Thursday said four soldiers had been killed and 14 injured in renewed clashes with pro-Russian separatists in the former Soviet country's east.

Military spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk told reporters that the losses came in Luhansk - the smaller of the two separatist provinces in Ukraine to have fallen under partial militia control in the past 16 months of conflict.

An upsurge in fighting that began last week in neighbouring Donetsk and killed 10 people on Sunday has raised renewed fears of full-scale warfare returning to the edge of the European Union's unstable eastern front.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande - co-sponsors of an increasingly tattered six-month-old truce - will meet Ukraine's leader Petro Poroshenko in Berlin on Monday in a bid to rescue the deal.

The meeting will notably omit President Vladimir Putin - the Kremlin leader who persistently denies any involvement in the crisis and calls Russian soldiers discovered in the war zone "volunteers".

Putin's absence is seen as a diplomatic snub designed to underscore Western concern and anger at the return of more serious hostilities after a months-long lull that helped contain the bloodshed to just a handful of hotspots.

NATO on Wednesday warned the separatists against grabbing more territory and stressed that Moscow had a "special responsibility" for restoring peace.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov responded by expressing hope the meeting with Merkel and Hollande "will be instructional" for Poroshenko and result in the agreed-upon withdrawal of Ukraine's biggest weapons from the frontline.

Kyiv's pro-Western forces have most recently been fighting the militias for control of a strategic highway linking the government-held southeastern port of Mariupol with the rebels' de facto capital Donetsk.

Most of the road is currently overseen by pro-Kyiv units. But its capture could potentially allow the militias to step up their stop-start campaign to capture Mariupol - a city of nearly half a million that is on the western edge of the loosely-defined demilitarisation zone.

The industrial port exports most of the east's factory output and provides a land bridge between rebel territories and the Russian-occupied Crimea peninsula.

Russia denies any links to the insurgents and officially provides them only with political backing at negotiations and UN Security Council forums.

But Ukraine's Western allies accuse the Kremlin of orchestrating and arming the uprising in revenge for Kyiv's decision to pull out of Moscow's orbit and hitch its future to the European Union last year.

The United Nations estimates the violence has killed more than 6,800 people since April 2014 and has driven at least 1.4 million from their homes.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Ağustos 2015, 14:49