Ukraine clashes 'blatant violation' of Minsk accords: EU

Brussels (AFP) - The EU said Tuesday an upsurge in fighting between pro-Russian rebels and government forces in eastern Ukraine is an outright breach of the Minsk truce accords, which are tied to sanctions against Moscow.

"The intense fighting around Avdiivka in the last few days, involving heavy shelling with proscribed weapons and leading to a considerable number of casualties, is a blatant violation of the ceasefire, as stipulated by the Minsk agreements," the EU foreign affairs arm said in a statement.

"We call for the fighting to stop immediately ... Full observance of the ceasefire is a crucial step towards the full implementation of the Minsk agreements, which is the basis for a peaceful and sustainable resolution of the conflict," it said.

France and Germany helped broker the Minsk accords with Moscow and Kiev, and European Union leaders tied implementation to a series of sanctions, including very damaging economic restrictions, against Russia.

Fighting in eastern Ukraine has waxed and waned since then, with Brussels insisting repeatedly there can be no change to the sanctions regime until the accord sticks.

New US President Donald Trump however has taken a much softer line on Moscow, suggesting on the campaign trail he could even lift some sanctions against Russia in an effort to ease tensions.

Trump talked with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the weekend in a call the White House described as a "significant start" to better ties.

The Kremlin said it was a "positive" exchange and the two leaders touched on many subjects, including the Ukraine crisis.

The industrial hub of Avdiivka, home to 20,000 people, came under attack on Sunday from insurgents seeking to wrest back territory controlled by Kiev in a near three-year war which has so far cost some 10,000 lives.

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