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Ukraine denies killing of child in attack on separatists

Ukraine has been battling pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions since 2014 Anatolii STEPANOV AFP/File

Ukraine on Monday denied reports that its forces had killed a five-year-old child in an attack on pro-Moscow eastern separatists, after Russia said it would launch an investigation.

“This is a gross, cynical, nasty and godless manipulation,” Ukraine’s defence ministry told AFP in a written comment on the claim, denouncing it as “fake news”.

Separatist authorities had at the weekend accused Ukrainian forces of killing the child and injuring a woman in a drone attack.

On Monday, the Russian Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, said the Ukrainian army had attacked civilian infrastructure on Friday in the separatist-held Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) using heavy armament and drones.

As a result of an explosion, a five-year-old child was killed while his 66-year-old grandmother was injured, the Investigative Committee said in a statement.

In a separate incident, a 46-year-old resident of the separatist-held Lugansk People’s Republic was wounded in an explosion, Russian investigators said.

Investigators said they launched criminal probes and accused Ukraine of violating a ceasefire agreement and legislation aiming at protecting civilians.

The claim of the attack could not be independently verified and international monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) have not commented the statements.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday said he saw no reason to doubt the reported death of the five-year-old, though the Kremlin did not have “verified information” on the subject.

“Of course, it would be hard to imagine that they would use a child’s death to spread fake news,” Peskov told reporters.

He accused Kiev of violating peace agreements and called the deaths and injuries of civilians “the bitter consequences” of a conflict that has so far remained unresolved.

Over the past week, fears have mounted of an escalation of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where government forces have battled pro-Russian separatists since 2014.

Ukraine last week said Russia had been building up a military presence on the border, and US forces in Europe raised their alert status following “recent escalations of Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine”.

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