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Ukraine Conflict Sees Spike in Violence

LONDON Even as fans from across the world celebrate the football World Cup in Russia, ceasefire monitors just over the border in eastern Ukraine say there has been a significant uptick in violence in recent days, including the use of heavy weapons and surfacetoair missiles.

Last week for instance we have seen over 7,400 ceasefire violations in total. It was an uptick by 20 percent compared to the week before. And this included many times the use of heavy weapons, the Principal Deputy Chief Monitor of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission Alexander Hug told VOA this week.

It is a war that is taking place across the border from where hundreds of thousands of fans are congregating for the World Cup. The stadium at RostovonDon lies just 200 kilometers from the front lines.

The OSCE monitors say both sides are breaking the ceasefire, although most violations are carried out by the Russianbacked forces.

On June 15, they fired two surfacetoair missiles at a drone used by the OSCE to monitor the front lines, not far from where Malaysia Airlines Flight M7 was shot down in 2014. The missiles failed to hit their target, and the incident was captured by the drone's cameras.

There is only one reason why this is happening. It is because those who interfere with our technology, those who stop our patrols, they want to prevent that we see the facts on the ground, Hug said.

Minsk Agreement

The 2015 Minsk Agreement on ending the conflict aims to secure a ceasefire and pave the way for regional elections, but it is routinely broken.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin spoke on the phone Thursday to his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, and media reports suggest the two sides are no closer to agreeing how to fully implement the agreement.

Foreign ministers of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France meeting last week failed to agree on the deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping force.

Ideas over what such a mandate should look like, how it would be formed and what territory it would have authority over are still very far apart, Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters after the meeting June 12.

Digging in

Meanwhile, there is little hope of ending the conflict soon. Just outside Donetsk, the de facto capital for the Russianbacked rebels in eastern Ukraine, rebel fighters are digging new trenches.

You know, as the saying goes, if you want peace, prepare for war, said Andrei, a rebel fighter for the selfdeclared Donetsk People's Republic.

Source: Voice of America