Russia has lost control over mercenaries in eastern Ukraine, says Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky

Kiev – Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, condemned Russia on Friday of having lost control over mercenaries in the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine.

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Two Ukrainian soldiers were recently killed in overnight shelling in the Donetsk region, near the Russian border, according to a statement posted on the president’s website.

“The blatant violation of the (ceasefire) agreements, the use of artillery, demonstrates, at least, the partial loss of control over mercenaries,’’ Zelensky said in the statement, adding: “We are hopeful the Russian side will regain control over these units.’’

That he did not accuse Russia of direct involvement in the killings was a departure from the usual line of his predecessor, Petro Poroshenko.

In his inauguration speech in May, Zelensky said that resolving the years-long conflict would be his top priority.

Zelensky described the recent attack as an “obvious attempt to once again undermine the process of negotiations on the ceasefire,’’ according to the statement.

The pro-Russian separatist rebellion erupted in Ukraine’s two eastern-most regions, Donetsk and Luhansk, five years ago when Kiev ousted its pro-Russian president in a political pivot towards the West.

About 13,000 people have been killed in the conflict, according to estimates by the United Nations.

While Russia has repeatedly denied allegations of direct involvement in the fighting, Russian President Vladimir Putin has represented the separatists at peace talks. 

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