FILE PHOTO:Ukraine's New President Visits Eastern War Zone.AFP
A Ukrainian soldier was killed in clashes with Russian-backed separatists in the war-torn east on Monday, as European Council chief Charles Michel was set to arrive in the ex-Soviet country.
During a two-day visit beginning Tuesday Michel is scheduled to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky and the Ukrainian military. He will also accompany Zelensky on a trip to the east.
Ukraine has been fighting Russian-backed separatists in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions since 2014, and Michel's visit comes during an increase in violence.
The military said on Monday that enemy shelling killed a Ukrainian soldier near the village of Pyshchevyk in the Donetsk region. Separatists had used mortars, grenade launchers and large-calibre machine guns, Kiev said.
The latest casualty brought to eight the number of Ukrainian servicemen killed since mid-February, shattering a ceasefire brokered last year.
Ukraine has been fighting Russian-speaking separatists following a pro-Western uprising in Kiev and Moscow's annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014.
The fierce fighting has claimed more than 13,000 lives, according to the United Nations, but the number of new fatalities has been decreasing in recent years.
Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Russia of sending troops and arms to support the separatists, claims Moscow denies.
Last week Ukraine launched a nationwide campaign to inoculate its population against the coronavirus after delays that sparked anger against the government, and Michel is expected to visit a vaccination centre.
Zelensky has blamed the delay on wealthier Western countries, and urged the EU to help eastern European countries.