Ukraine said one of its soldiers was killed in fighting with pro-Moscow separatists, as the United States once again warned Russia against any attacks on the country.
US President Joe Biden was scheduled to speak with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday after Russian President Vladimir Putin warned for the second time of a tough response in the event of an invasion of Ukraine.
In his New Year’s Eve address, Zelensky said that ending the war in the East remained his «main goal.»
«A soldier of the joint forces was fatally wounded,» the military said in a statement, adding that the separatists launched three attacks within 24 hours using grenade launchers and small arms.
The army gave no further details of how the soldier was killed.
Tensions with Moscow have risen in recent months, with Russia massing its forces near Ukraine’s border.
The West accused the Kremlin of planning an invasion.
This week, Biden made his second phone call with Putin in just over three weeks, threatening Moscow with significant economic sanctions if it launched an attack.
The Russian president said sanctions against Moscow would be a «fatal mistake».
On December 22, international monitors said Russia and Ukraine had agreed to restore a ceasefire, but early the next day Kiev and the separatists accused each other of new violations.
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The soldier’s death is the first since the armistice was agreed upon.
All previous ceasefires – including the previous truce agreed in July 2020 – have collapsed.
Kiev has been fighting a pro-Moscow insurgency in two separate regions bordering Russia since 2014, when the Kremlin annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula.
The conflict in eastern Ukraine has so far left more than 13,000 people dead.
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