The State Department on Tuesday expressed concern about a "dramatic increase in fighting" in Ukraine, after Kiev's military reported that seven soldiers had been killed in clashes with pro-Russian rebels in just two days.
"The United States is deeply concerned with the recent spike in violence in eastern Ukraine around Avdiivka-Yasynuvata. Since January 28, the OSCE's Special Monitoring Mission has reported a dramatic increase in fighting, including with heavy artillery and other weapons proscribed by the Minsk agreements," acting spokesman for the State Department Mark Toner said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.
"The fighting has caused dozens of Ukrainian military casualties and 10 civilian casualties. It has also left 17,000 civilians, including 2,500 children, without water, heat, or electricity," he said.
Ukraine's military said on Monday that seven soldiers had been killed and nine wounded in fighting that began Sunday when pro-Russian separatists attacked government positions in the town of Avdiivka. It marked the highest casualty rate since a spike in violence in mid-December.
The State Department on Tuesday called for the implementation of "an immediate, sustained ceasefire" and underscored the U.S. government's support for the Minsk agreements. Fighting in eastern Ukraine between rebels and Ukrainian military forces has persisted for nearly three years, despite ceasefire deals brokered in 2014 and 2015.
Meanwhile, Russia on Tuesday accused Ukrainian forces of "armed provocations" in the eastern region of Donbass and said that Kiev has drawn attention to fighting to keep the conflict on the "global agenda."
"We call on the Ukrainian authorities to immediately stop armed provocations in Donbass, to observe the current ceasefire agreements and finally begin to duly implement all provisions of the Package of Measures, including those that concern political aspects of the current problems," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement reported by TASS news agency.
"A strange pattern cannot but attract attention," the ministry stated. "Whenever tensions in Donbass grow, the Ukrainian leaders happen to be making foreign visits. It seems, they try to keep the Kiev-initiated crisis on the global agenda."
The United States and European Union have imposed sanctions on Russia for its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and involvement in the conflict in Ukraine.