2 Ukrainian Soldiers Killed in Clashes with Separatists

The conflict was at the center of diplomatic spat the UN Thursday when Western countries claimed Russia was blocking efforts to bring about an end to the fighting.

Kiev has repeatedly accused Moscow and the separatists of undermining a ceasefire that brought relative calm when it took effect in July last year.

Ukraine’s defense ministry reported that one soldier was killed by heavy machine-gun fire near the village of Novomykhaylivka, southwest of Donetsk, the separatists’ de facto capital.

In a separate incident, another soldier was shot dead by sniper fire near Zaytseve, also in the Donetsk region, the ministry said on its website.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday visited the frontline with several Western ambassadors and said that the number of attacks carried out by separatists “has increased recently.”

Zelensky said the truce was necessary to save military and civilian lives.

The U.S. and European countries on Thursday accused Russia of blocking any solution to the conflict that has claimed more than 13,000 lives.

“We call on Russia to withdraw its forces from Ukraine, cease its support for its proxies and other armed groups,” U.S. diplomat Rodney Hunter said during a UN Security Council video conference

Russia denies sending troops and arms to support the separatists.

Novaya Gazeta Publishes New Evidence of Chechen Extrajudicial Killings

The independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper has published new findings into the alleged extrajudicial killings of nearly 30 Chechens in 2017.

The newspaper says the new evidence corroborates its 2017 investigation which claimed that Chechen security officials executed 27 of more than 100 people detained in sweeping anti-terror raids in late 2016 and early 2017.

Novaya Gazeta on Monday published the testimony of an individual who was allegedly “directly involved” in the anti-terror raids, guarded detainees in a “secret prison” and witnessed the execution of at least 13 detainees.

The newspaper also shared copies of official photographic tables from the Chechen Interior Ministry with data on the detentions of 108 people, some of whom became victims of extrajudicial execution.

Chechen security officials also pressured several of the detained men into taking an oath of allegiance to the Islamic State terrorist group on camera, according to Novaya Gazeta.

Novaya Gazeta editors prefaced the latest investigation with a note: “Everything that you read below is documented by Russian law enforcement and judicial authorities, as well as directly confirmed by open, non-anonymous eyewitness accounts of the events described.”

Chechen authorities have denied that the individuals named in Novaya Gazeta’s reports were ever detained, while Russia’s Investigative Committee has refused to open an investigation into the alleged killings.

Under strongman Ramzan Kadyrov’s leadership, the republic of Chechnya has become the subject of multiple reports of human rights abuses over the years. The North Caucasus region, which was devastated by two separatist wars in the 1990s, enjoys a certain level of autonomy in exchange for loyalty to the Kremlin.

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