Ukraine Condemns Ceasefire Violations by Russia-Backed Troops as Invasion Fears Rise

Kyiv says two of its servicemen were injured by shelling in the Donbas region from Moscow-backed forces it accuses of repeated ceasefire breaches, as international concerns grow about a Russian military buildup by Ukraine's border.

The latest hostilities come as Ukraine's foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said Russia had amassed 115,000 troops by its frontier, and warned that if Moscow "decides to undertake a military operation, things will happen in literally the blink of an eye."

NATO is set to meet Tuesday to discuss its response to Russia's build-up.

Ukraine's foreign ministry said, according to a translation, that Monday's incidents took place in Svitlodarsk, 40 miles north-east of Donetsk and Starognativk, 30 miles south of Donetsk.

It said that Ukrainian Defense Forces had recorded "eight ceasefire violations committed by Russian occupation forces, two of them by using weapons prohibited by Minsk agreements."

This refers to the pact aimed at ending hostilities. It was agreed by the Trilateral Contact Group, consisting of Ukraine, Russia and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Ukrainian serviceman
A Ukrainian serviceman in military exercises with the U.S. and NATO near Lviv Ukraine, on September 24, 2021. International concern is growing at the buildup of Russian troops by Ukraine's border. YURIY DYACHYSHYN//Getty

More than 13,000 people have been killed since fighting broke out in 2014. A ceasefire has been in place since July 27, 2020, but Kyiv says at least 69 Ukrainian servicemen have been killed in that time.

Kyiv said Tuesday that the number of ceasefire violations "by the Russian occupation forces" was 42 in the week of November 22 to 28.

In a statement on Tuesday on its VKontakte social media page, the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, whose forces Kyiv is fighting, accused Ukrainian forces of similar violations.

The OSCE reports daily ceasefire breaches and the Kremlin officially rejects any Russian involvement in the conflict in the Donbas.

However, it adds to tensions in the region, with alarm building over the intentions of Russian President Vladimir Putin with the military build-up near Ukraine.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg visited alliance troops north of Riga on Monday.

He told reporters Russia has built up armored units, drones, electronic warfare systems and "tens of thousands of combat-ready Russian troops," by the border of Ukraine, which is not an alliance member.

He admitted "we don't have any clarity" over Putin's goal.

Meanwhile, Belarus announced joint military drills with Russia on the border with Ukraine.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who faces criticism for stoking a migrant crisis on the EU border, referred to Russia when he said Monday: "It is clear whose side Belarus will be on."

President Joe Biden said he backs Ukraine's sovereignty and could call on a collective international response to Russian aggression during the U.S-led Summit for Democracy, held on December 9 and 10.

Iulia Joja, director and senior fellow at the Middle East Institute and adjunct professor at Georgetown University, said "it would be interesting to see how the lines are drawn by the Biden administration," during the summit.

Joja told Newsweek that the event would provide "a timely opportunity for the Western democracies to band together and see to it that Russian revanchism in Ukraine and throughout the region is contained, and indeed pushed back."