Ukraine rebels accuse govt forces of mortar attacks: Report

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Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine accused Kyiv government forces on Thursday of using mortars to attack their territory, in violation of agreements aimed at ending the conflict, the RIA news agency said.

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Russia has massed more than 100,000 troops close to Ukraine’s borders while demanding that NATO pledge not to accept Kyiv as a member. The West has threatened Moscow with new sanctions if it attacks Ukraine; Russia denies planning any attacks.

Ukraine’s military denied the separatists’ accusations that government troops had attacked, saying it was the rebels who shelled the Ukrainian military.

Sporadic shooting has been reported in the rebel-held regions from both sides in recent years. But an escalation in the years-long conflict with Donbass separatists could fuel tension between Russia and the West.

According the the RIA report, representatives of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic said Ukrainian forces used mortars, grenade launchers and a machine gun on Thursday.

“Armed forces of Ukraine have rudely violated the ceasefire regime, using heavy weapons, which, according to the Minsk agreements, should be withdrawn,” said representatives of Luhansk region in the Ukrainian-Russian ceasefire control group cited by Interfax news agency.

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