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Ukraine denies killing of child in attack on separatists

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Ukraine has been battling pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions since 2014<br />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”.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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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