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Ninth soldier killed in fighting as situation in town in eastern Ukraine detoriates

Residents of the town of Avdiivka are evacuating, and water and electricity to the town have been cut off.

By Ed Adamczyk
Ninth soldier killed in fighting as situation in town in eastern Ukraine detoriates
An injured soldier is carried to an ambulance in Avdiivka, Ukraine, where hostilities between Ukrainian government troops and separatists have intensified in the past week. The town is without water or electricity, and residents have begun evacuations. Photo by Markian Lysieko/EPA

Feb. 1 (UPI) -- A Ukrainian soldier was the ninth killed in a week of escalating fighting between government troops and pro-Russian separatists, the Ukrainian military said Wednesday.

Nine servicemen and one civilian were injured in the past 24 hours in fighting centering on the strategic town of Avdiivka, the military added. Emergency official Vladislav Husinskyy said that 175 people, including 88 children, were evacuated from Avdiivka, near the city of Donetsk, on Wednesday. The town has been without water or electricity for days.

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The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported Tuesday that a Donetsk water filtration plant stopped working because of shelling from both sides, leaving 400,000 people potentially without water. Communities are relying on local reservoirs, with 24-hour supplies of water. Temperatures in the area have dropped below freezing.

A high number of ceasefire violations, by both sides, were reported Sunday and Monday by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. A ceasefire specified in the 2015 Minsk agreement held until late December, and the conflict has been escalating since then.

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"Russian occupation forces carried out massive attacks across the contact line using all available weapons, including (artillery, mortars and tanks) -- all prohibited by the Minsk agreements -- and small arms," the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

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Although Russia has denied involvement in the separatist campaign, a statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry said that Ukrainian troops "continue to conduct offensive operations to seize positions held by self-defense forces, including in the suburbs of Donetsk. Heavy weapons, including heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, are being actively used to shell residential areas. According to the Minsk Package of Measures of February 12, 2015, such weapons should long since have been withdrawn from the contact line."

The U.S. State Department said Tuesday it is" deeply concerned with the recent spike in violence in eastern Ukraine." The United Nations Security Council, in a statement Tuesday, said the "dangerous deterioration" of the situation is a cause for worry about "the impact on the local civilian population."

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