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Ukraine: Fighting flares up in eastern town of Avdiivka

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Ukraine conflict: Deadly flare-up in east

Ukraine's foreign ministry has called the onslaught a Russian war crime.

Stoltenberg's appeal to Moscow comes amidst European worries that a Putin-friendly Trump administration may weaken USA support for Ukrainian government forces.

The violence in Avdiivka, which lies close to the rebel capital of Donetsk, has left around 20,000 people without heat or hot water in the midst of winter temperatures falling as low as minus 20 Celsius ( minus 4 Fahrenheit). A ceasefire specified in the 2015 Minsk agreement held until late December, and the conflict has been escalating since then.

Missiles allegedly fired from civilian districts of Donetsk and Yasynuvata, in eastern Ukraine, have fallen on the town, cutting its power, water and heating and injuring at least one citizen.

"Not only are the lives of thousands of children in Avdiivka, and on all sides of the conflict, at risk, but to make matters worse, the lack of water and electricity means that homes are becoming dangerously cold and health conditions deteriorating as we speak", Giovanna Barberis, UNICEF Representative in Ukraine, said as quoted in the Wednesday statement.

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Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has cut short an official visit to Germany. Russian Federation has denied backing the rebels. Over the weekend, fighting flared up in the eastern town of Avdiivka as government and Russian-backed separatists exchanged mortar and rocket fire.

"The members of the Security Council expressed their full support of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine", the Security Council said in statement.

"The current escalation in Donbass is a clear indication of Russia's continued blatant disregard of its commitments under the Minsk [ceasefire] agreements with a view of preventing the stabilisation of the situation and achieving any progress in the security and humanitarian spheres", Ukraine's foreign ministry said in a statement. The two leaders spoke Saturday for the first time, and as Trump has publicly mused about the prospect of easing sanctions against the Kremlin.

"We call for an immediate return to the ceasefire and withdrawal of all heavy weapons banned under the Minsk agreements".

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