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Russia expels US diplomat, Ukraine, separatists trade blame after kindergarten shelling

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The latest situation in the Russia-Ukraine impasse.
The latest situation in the Russia-Ukraine impasse.

UKRAINE: Early morning exchanges of fire between Kyiv’s forces and pro-Russian separatists – who have been at war for years and where a ceasefire is periodically violated – caused alarm as Western countries have said an incursion could come at any time.

One of the deepest crises in post-Cold War relations is playing out in Europe as Russia wants security guarantees, including Kyiv never joining the North Atlantic Treat Organisation (NATO) alliance, and the US and allies offer arms control and confidence-building measures.

But in a blow to US-Russian relations, Russia expelled US Deputy Chief of Mission Bart Gorman. The move was announced on Thursday but a senior State Department official said he left last week.

Moscow cited the US expulsion of a senior official in Washington, who it said was forced to leave before a replacement could be found as part of a US “visa war”.

Washington said it would respond to the “unprovoked” move.

Russian diplomats who have stayed longer than three years must leave the US, while Moscow is giving US diplomats less time, a State Department spokesman said. In Ukraine, Russian-backed rebels and Kyiv’s forces traded accusations that each had fired across the ceasefire line in eastern Ukraine, where Moscow accuses Kyiv of “exterminating” civilians.

Ukrainian Government forces denied accusations of having targeted separatist positions in the breakaway region of Donbass, which borders Russia.

Details could not be established independently, but reports from both sides suggested an incident more serious than the routine ceasefire violations that are often reported in the area. Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow was seriously concerned about the reports. Russia has long said Kyiv wants an excuse to seize rebel territory by force, which Ukraine denies.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said the pro-Russian forces had shelled a kindergarten, in what he called a “big provocation”.

Video footage released by Ukrainian police showed a hole through a brick wall in a room scattered with debris and children’s toys.


Saturday, February 19, 2022 – 01:00

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