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Ukraine flag

The Ukrainian parliament on Thursday approved a plan to mobilise some 104,000 soldiers this year amid an escalation of the conflict with Russia-backed separatists in the country’s east.

Ukraine flag
Ukraine flag

Deputies backed a decree by President Petro Poroshenko that stipulates three waves of mobilization in a 268-1 vote, the parliament said on its website.

Ukraine’s Security Council Secretary Oleksandr Turchynov said that the “Russian aggression continues.”

Speaking in parliament, Turchynov warned of a “full-fledged continental war,” if the separatists and Russia launch an attack on Ukrainian positions.

Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of sending fighters, heavy weapons and regular troops to the east Ukrainian districts controlled by the separatists. Moscow vehemently denies this.

Poroshenko signed the decree on Wednesday, saying that it should enable much needed reinforcements for the country’s armed forces.

While the decree did not give a specific number, Ukrainian Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak said last week that he hopes to recruit 104,000 soldiers by the mobilisation this year.

Fighting between government troops and separatist militias continued on Thursday, centering again on Donetsk airport, Ukraine’s Security Council said.

Alexander Zakharchenko, the leader of the Donetsk separatists, claimed that his forces would take the airport from government troops later in the day. Earlier this week, the airport’s tower had been fully destroyed by shelling.

Security Council spokesman Andriy Lysenko said in Kiev that two Ukrainian soldiers were killed and four were injured in clashes during the past 24 hours.

On Tuesday, 13 people were killed when an artillery shell exploded near a bus south of Donetsk.

The renewed violence comes after efforts to hold a summit between Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany collapsed. The four countries’ foreign ministers merely agreed on Monday that the so-called contact group should meet as soon as possible.

Donetsk separatist envoy Denis Pushilin has said that the group will meet in Minsk, Belarus, on Friday, but there was no confirmation from Russia, Blearus or Ukraine for this on Thursday.

The contact group consists of Russia, Ukraine and the Organization for Security and Co-Operation (OSCE) and negotiated a ceasefire agreement with separatist leaders in September.

Meanwhile, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said that his country will use its good relations with Russia to work towards defusing the Ukraine crisis as it chairs the OSCE this year.

“I can assure you that Serbia is ready to act as an honest broker in this process,” Dacic said at the presentation of his chairmanship agenda to the 56 other OSCE members in Vienna.

Serbia has been walking a diplomatic tightrope by keeping close relations with Russia while trying to join the European Union.

The minister warned that “without sincere dialogue between the main stakeholders, as well as among (OSCE) states, it will be extremely difficult to come to a resolution.”


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