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One killed as Donbas fighting escalates
Journal Staff Report

KYIV, Nov. 29 - One Ukrainian soldier was killed and two were wounded in the 24 hours as Russia-backed separatists shelled government positions in the eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions, RFE/RL reported.

A statement from the Defense Ministry on November 29 said the separatists shelled government positions 27 times since the morning of November 28. It said Ukrainian forces returned fire 11 times.

The escalation of fighting comes days after Igor Plotnitsky, a separatist leader of the self-proclaimed Moscow-backed Luhansk Peoples Republic, was replaced following a palace coup. The fighting raises questions whether the new leadership of the rebels is committed to a seize-fire deal.

The Ukrainian military claimed that cease-fire violations by the separatists disrupted plans for Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and UN representatives to visit the towns of Travneve and Hladosove.

It said they had planned to assess the humanitarian situation in the two towns, which are close to the front line in the Donetsk region.

After a Moscow-friendly president was pushed from power by pro-European protests in Kyiv, Russia seized Crimea and fomented separatism in eastern Ukraine, where the ensuing war has killed more than 10,000 people since April 2014.

Fighting persists despite an internationally backed 2015 deal that established a cease-fire and set out steps to resolve the status of separatist-held areas in eastern Ukraine.

The resignation of the leader of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic Igor Plotnitsky was announced Friday by Leonid Pasechnik, his long-time foe and minister of state security.

The separatist mouthpiece Luhansk Information Center reported on Saturday that the local legislature voted unanimously to accept Plotnitsky's resignation and make Pasechnik interim chief.

Pasechnik announced on Friday that Plotnitsky had resigned on health grounds and that he would be the acting chief until an election is called.

Plotnitsky's resignation ends a nearly week-long showdown between the separatist leader and the ousted interior minister, who had summoned troops in defiance of his sacking.

Plotnitsky has not appeared in public since Wednesday and has not commented on the reported resignation. The 53-year old former Ukrainian bureaucrat was spotted arriving at a Russian airport on Thursday with a carry-on bag.

Plotnitsky was one of the signatories of a 2015 truce between the separatists and Ukraine, brokered by Russia, France and Germany, which helped to reduce the scale of fighting but did not stop it altogether.

In comments carried by Luhansk Information Center, Pasechnik said he was committed to the truce. (rfe/ez)

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