The Ukrainian military yesterday reported that three of its soldiers had been killed by pro-Russian separatist forces, in the largest loss for the Ukrainian side this year.
The Ukrainian military noted in a statement that the separatists had hit a truck with an anti-tank missile near the town of Pisky in the eastern Donetsk region, a violation of the ceasefire accords.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky threatened retaliation in a speech at the Defence Ministry.
“Those who think that Ukrainian soldiers can be shot with impunity have made a fatal mistake,” Zelensky said.
Zelensky, inaugurated last year, has set out to end the conflict in Ukraine’s two eastern-most regions, near the Russian border, as his top priority.
About 13,000 people have been killed in the conflict, according to estimates by the United Nations.
The conflict erupted six years ago when Ukraine ousted its pro-Russian president at the time, in a political pivot towards the West.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has represented the separatists at international peace talks, including in talks with Zelensky in Paris in December.
The Russian government has repeatedly denied accusations of being directly involved in the conflict.
A cat looks down at a Ukrainian soldier resting in a trench on the front line with Russia-backed separatists near Krasnogorivka village, Donetsk region.