Ukraine accuses separatists of killing five soldiers

- Ukraine says it does not plan to withdraw heavy weapons from the front unless the cease-fire is fully implemented.

KIEV, Ukraine (AA) - Five Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 25 others were wounded during last 24-hours in eastern Ukraine, a Ukrainian official said Monday.

Ukraine’s Anti-Terrorism Operation spokesperson Andriy Lysenko accused pro-Russian separatists of violating the cease-fire that began on Feb. 15 at least 112 times.  

Lysenko said that the situation remained tense in Debaltseve, a region controlled by the government, and added that the fighting between Ukrainian soldiers and pro-Russian separatists continued.

Pro-Russian separatists allegedly fought with Ukrainian troops last night in the Shirokino borough, near Mariupol, as well.

The spokesperson said that the Ukrainian government did not plan to withdraw heavy weapons from the front lines. "As long as the first article of the Minsk Accord, the cease-fire, is not implemented, we cannot implement the second article," he said.

Michael Bociurkiw, chairman of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s special monitoring mission, said that despite "some violations" in Debaltseve, the cease-fire was being respected.

Fighting between government forces and pro-Russian separatists broke out in Ukraine's Donbass region in April 2014.  In September and December 2014, the two sides managed to reach two cease-fire agreements, which lasted until January 2015.

When the cease-fire regime collapsed on Jan.12, fighting broke out throughout the region, with separatist forces going on the offensive at several locations.

On Feb. 7, French President Francois Hollande joined German Chancellor Angela Merkel for a surprise visit to Moscow to discuss a peace proposal.

French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed a cease-fire agreement on Feb.12, according to which a cease-fire was to enter into force at midnight of Feb. 15.

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