Ukraine said Monday that it won’t heed a recent weapons withdrawal plan under the latest Minsk peace agreement because the pro-Russian separatists keep violating the ceasefire.
“As long as the rebels continue firing at (our) soldiers’ positions, we cannot talk about withdrawing heavy weapons,” Defence Ministry spokesman Vladislav Seleznyov said in Kiev, according to local media reports.
Seleznyov argued that a ceasefire needs to be obeyed for at least 24 hours before the withdrawal can begin.
Ukraine said earlier that the withdrawal would begin Sunday, after agreeing to a new timetable with separatist leaders and Russian military officials.
Ukraine’s National Security Council said Monday that two soldiers were killed and 10 injured in clashes during the past 24 hours. It also said that, while the intensity of the skirmishes had decreased, the separatists still attacked Ukrainian forces 27 times over the same period.
The separatists refuted the allegations.
Militia leader Eduard Basurin said that government forces had violated the ceasefire 29 times by firing upon separatist positions.
He added that the separatists forwarded the information to the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination, a liaison office set up between Russia, Ukraine and the separatists under mediation from the Organization for Security and Co-operation (OSCE).
Authorities in the eastern city of Kharkiv said that a 15-year old died in hospital after being injured by a roadside bomb on Sunday, bringing the explosion’s death toll to three.
The incident occurred alongside a march commemorating the first anniversary of the protests that brought the country’s pro-Western leadership to power. The government-controlled eastern city has been hit by a string of explosions recently, and this was the first time that people were killed.
Ukraine’s Security Council warned that the explosions show that the separatists aim to extend their activity beyond the territories currently under their control.
The German government said that it was worried about the delay in implementing the ceasefire.
“We expect that Russia uses its considerable influence on the separatists to bring about a ceasefire,” government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in Berlin.
Also on Monday, President Petro Poroshenko vowed again to return Crimea back to Ukraine.
In an adress to Crimeans, Poroshenko said that Ukraine will bring back “the temporarily occupied territories” under its control. “I won’t say today that this will happen fast and easy, but it will definitely happen,” he said.
Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula in March, after sending in troops and holding a referendum that was condemned by Kiev and the West.
Poroshenko stressed that Ukraine will never give up its claim for Crimea and condemned the “state of lawlessness” currently governing the region.
“People are being detained on invented charges, searches are being carried out even in temples,” he said, adding that leaders of the Crimean Tatars had been deported and arrested.
“A civilised development of Crimea can only happen within a independent and unified Ukraine,” Poroshenko said.
The peninsula’s Russian-backed authorities retorted that they would put Poroshenko on a tribunal.
“We promised him a Crimean tribunal and believe me, it will happen. We will bring him here and have him tried,” local leader Sergei Aksyonov said, according to the official Kryminform news agency. He added that Crimea will never return to Ukraine.