Kremlin urges France and Germany to stop Ukraine conflict crossing 'dangerous line'

FILE PHOTO: A Ukrainian service member walks along fighting positions on the contact line with Russian-backed separatist rebels near the town of Avdiivka in Donetsk Region, Ukraine February 13, 2021. REUTERS/Oleksandr Klymenko

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Kremlin on Thursday urged France and Germany to use their influence with the Ukrainian government to make sure that events in the part of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed rebels did not "cross a dangerous line".

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Moscow was seriously concerned by a rise in violence on the contact line between the rebels and Ukrainian government forces.

The separatists seized a swathe of eastern Ukraine in 2014, including the industrial cities of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Major combat ended with a truce agreed in the Belarusian capital Minsk in 2015, whose implementation France and Germany have helped to oversee. But sporadic fighting continues; Kyiv says about 14,000 civilians, Ukrainian soldiers and separatists have been killed in all.

In recent weeks clashes have become more frequent, and at least 10 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed this year.

On Thursday, the Kremlin accused Kyiv's forces of shelling in breach of the ceasefire agreement and entering areas where they were not meant to be.

Ukraine's military accused pro-Russian forces of shelling its positions to provoke them into returning fire and opening themselves up to accusations from Moscow. It said Russian-backed forces had violated the ceasefire four times within 24 hours.

The Kremlin said it was using its own influence with pro-Russian separatists to try to calm tensions.

"We also hope all our partners in the ... (Normandy) quartet will pay attention to the growing tension on the contact line and will use their influence to prevent this escalation from crossing a dangerous line," Peskov said.

The leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine have met from time to time in the so-called Normandy format to discuss implementation of the peace deal.

"A red line would be the resumption of full-scale hostilities," said Peskov.

(Reporting by Dmitry Antonov and Andrew Osborn in Moscow and Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Andrew Osborn and Kevin Liffey)

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