The deputy commander of the self-proclaimed Donetsk Republic’s forces says nearly 60 Ukrainian troops have been killed during recent clashes with pro-Russia forces in the region.
“Ukrainian forces have lost 57 troops, five tanks, eleven armored infantry vehicles, and 12 artillery pieces and mortars over the past 24 hours,” said Eduard Basurin in a news briefing on Sunday.
Basurin added that the pro-Russia forces also captured two large ammunition depots for Grad launchers and tube artillery.
The commander said the pro-Russia forces opened fire on Ukrainian soldiers early on Sunday morning to halt their potential breakthrough from the Donetsk town of Artyomovsk to deliver supplies to other troops surrounded in the nearby city of Debaltseve.
Furthermore, the deputy commander said three civilians have been killed in residential areas in Donetsk and another person in Yasynuvata, both cities controlled by the self-proclaimed Donetsk Republic. In addition, 38 civilians were wounded.
The continued fighting and climbing casualty figures came as peace talks collapsed a day earlier.
On January 31, Ukraine’s representative, former President Leonid Kuchma, left the talks just hours after they began, telling reporters that pro-Russia officials had destabilized the negotiations by making ultimatums and refusing “to discuss a plan of measures for a quick ceasefire and a pull-back of heavy weapons.”
However, a representative of the pro-Russia forces, Denis Pushilin, told reporters they were prepared for negotiations, “but not ready for ultimatums from Kiev while shelling by their forces is going on in the background of towns in the Donbass (industrialized eastern Ukraine).”
On September 5 last year, peace talks were held in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, which led to a 12-point peace plan – the Minsk Protocol – between Kiev and pro-Russia fighters.
However, the truce has been violated almost daily by both the Ukrainian military and the pro-Russia forces.
More than 5,000 people have so far been killed and nearly 1.2 million have been displaced since April 2014, after Ukraine’s Crimea voted in a referendum to re-join Russia.