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US Mission to OSCE calls on Russia to stop trying to seize new Ukrainian territories

US Mission to OSCE calls on Russia to stop trying to seize new Ukrainian territoriesThe U.S. Mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has called on Russia to end attempts to seize new territory beyond the line of contact, according to the chief of the Mission, Kate M. Byrnes, who spoke at an OSCE Permanent Council meeting in Vienna January 31.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation and Europe (OSCE) is responsible for monitoring ceasefire violations and organising peace talks between envoys from Russia and Ukraine. It helped negotiate a February 2014 truce deal in Minsk that was co-sponsored by Germany and France and which EU leaders cling on to as the one remaining roadmap to peace.

"The intense fighting around Avdiivka in the last few days... is a blatant violation of the ceasefire, as stipulated by the Minsk agreements," the EU foreign affairs arm said in a statement.

The OSCE said the fighting was "of grave concern" while the US embassy tweeted that it was especially worried about "the 2,500 children who are without water, electricity and heat".

Charge d'affaires Kate Byrnes of the US mission to the OSCE's Permanent Council said that "Russia and the separatists initiated the violence in Avdiivka".

"We call on Russia to stop the violence, honour the ceasefire, withdraw heavy weapons, and end attempts to seize new territory beyond the line of contact," she said.

The conflict has killed nearly 10,000 people since 2014 -- more than half of them civilians -- and plunged Moscow's relations with the West to a post-Cold War low.

The Kremlin denies backing the insurgents and only admits that Russian "volunteers" and off-duty soldiers have entered the war zone of their own free will.
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