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US Envoy demands Russia, ‘forces it backs’ immediately end fighting in Ukraine

Ukrainian troops stage tanks during Combine Resolve XI, Dec 8, 2018, at Hohenfels Training Area. Combined Resolve XI is a biannual exercise that serves as the combat training center certification exercise for regionally allocated forces. The iteration of this exercise takes place in two phases at the Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels training areas between Nov. 26-Dec. 14, 2018 and Jan. 13-25, 2019. (Staff Sgt. Tyrone Williams/U.S. Army National Guard)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The U.S. charge d’affaires in Kyiv has condemned Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine after reports of deadly attacks on medical personnel and called on Moscow and the “forces it backs” to end the fighting “immediately.”

“Attacks by Russia-led forces on medical personnel show a complete lack of respect for human life, international standards, and the Minsk agreements,” William B. Taylor said on July 2 in a statement on the embassy’s Facebook page.

“We call on Russia and the forces it backs to end the fighting immediately, protect civilians and humanitarian personnel, and withdraw armed forces and weapons,” he wrote.

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Taylor is the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was brought back to serve as charge d’affaires in Kyiv last year.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry on July 1 said one of its soldiers was killed after Russia-backed separatists opened fire at a medical vehicle in the eastern region of Donetsk.

The ministry said two other servicemen — a soldier and a military physician — were injured in the anti-tank-missile attack on July 1. Officials said that the medical specialist died later from wounds at the hospital.

The Defense Ministry said on July 2 that separatist fighters violated a cease-fire 25 times in a 24-hour period, using 120- and 82-millimeter mortars that are banned under the Minsk peace agreements.

The ministry said Ukrainian armed forces had killed three separatists and wounded five others.

Separatists in Donetsk said one of their fighters had been killed and another one wounded by Ukrainian armed forces.

Since April 2014, some 13,000 people have been killed in fighting between Kyiv’s forces and the separatists who control parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Cease-fire deals announced as part of the Minsk accords — September 2014 and February 2015 pacts aimed at resolving the conflict — have contributed to a decrease in fighting but have failed to hold.

A new cease-fire agreement was reached on March 8, but both sides have accused each other of repeated violations since then.

On July 1, Ukraine’s embassy to Britain posted on Twitter the photos of the nine Ukrainian soldiers it said were killed by “Russia-led forces in occupied Donbas” in June, referring to the areas under separatist control.