Days after the death of Putin opponent Boris Nemtsov, who claimed to be able to prove Russian support of the rebels in Ukraine, rebel armed forces are still moving heavy weapons and equipment into eastern Ukraine.
Meanwhile, American and European leaders are still discussing how to successfully implement a ceasefire to end the conflict. Since the Minsk Agreement last month, Ukrainian and Russian forces have had difficulty attaining the required ceasefire. As rebel forces are reportedly still moving to key cities in the east, Ukrainian troops are completing their removal of 100-mm weapons from Donbas, according to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry.
“Shooting, shelling has still been going on and people have still been killed over the course of these last days,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday to press in Geneva. “So there is not yet a full ceasefire... So our hope is that in the next hours, certainly not more than days, this will be fully implemented.”
President Barack Obama held a video conference Tuesday afternoon with leaders from France, Germany, Italy and the U.K. “to discuss the Ukraine crisis and global security issues,” the White House said. The U.S. has threatened further sanctions on Russia if the ceasefire is not successful.
“The concentration and movement of military equipment and personnel of the Russian armed forces, in particular tanks, armored personnel carriers, other armored vehicles, multiple rocket launchers, anti-aircraft and artillery units, continue in some areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions,” Ukrainian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Yevhen Perebyinis said, according to ukrinform.ua, a Ukrainian news outlet.
Russian President Vladimir Putin “noted the importance of rigorously abiding by the ceasefire regime, continuing the process of removing heavy arms,” according to a readout of his telephone call with French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Monday.
In addition, the Minsk Agreement requires the exchange of all prisoners connected with the conflict. During the call on Tuesday, Poroshenko highlighted the necessity of “liberation of all hostages illegally kept imprisoned in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as well as in Russia.” After nine months, captured Ukrainian helicopter pilot Nadiya Savchenko remains in Russian custody for her alleged involvement in the death of two Russian journalists.
The area is controlled by illegal military formations, according to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Armen Harutyunyan, and though the death toll is much lower than early “ceasefire” attempts, casualties are still common.
Tuesday, Kiev announced three deaths and nine wounded in a shelling by Russian-sympathetic opposition -- the highest death toll in several days. According to the latest reports from the United Nations, more than 6,000 people have been killed in the Ukraine conflict since April 2014.