A DailyExpertNews team and other journalists accompanying Ukraine’s interior minister on a tour of the front lines in eastern Ukraine came under mortar fire on Saturday.
No one was injured.
Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskiy took cover when several mortar shells landed nearby. Shortly after the shelling, he gave interviews to international media in Novoluhanske.
About a dozen mortar shells landed within a few hundred yards of the group.
Monastyrskiy told DailyExpertNews before leaving the area, “We have spoken to soldiers on the ground. The spirit is incredibly brave and all the guys are ready for any scenario.”
He said it was the first time he had come under fire. He told reporters that he was in the car on the way and that they had to stop every time they heard shelling and were on the ground.
At a press conference later in Kramatorsk, Monastyrskiy was asked by DailyExpertNews what role Ukraine believed Russian military advisers played in the fighting in the eastern part of the country.
“We have information about the advance of the Russian army through our territory,” he said. “There is also information that certain units of the Wagner PMC have entered our territory. The purpose of the stay is to organize sabotage on our territory.”
some background: Wagner is a private Russian paramilitary force long associated with separatists in eastern Ukraine and has also been deployed to Libya, Syria and the Central African Republic, among others.
The Russian government denies any association with Wagner or other private military contractors.
In recent days, Ukrainian armed forces have reported an increase in heavy weapon fire on Ukrainian positions along what is known as the line of contact.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said that as of Saturday 5 p.m. local time (10 a.m. ET), “70 violations of the ceasefire regime were recorded by the Russian occupation forces, 60 of them through the use of weapons banned by the accords.” from Minsk.”
The ministry also said two Ukrainian servicemen were killed and four injured on Saturday.
Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov reiterated in a Facebook post on Saturday that Ukraine had no intention of launching an offensive against the breakaway regions, as the leaders of the self-proclaimed republics of Luhansk and Donetsk are claiming.
“We are not planning any offensives, but we will not allow with impunity to shoot at the positions of our troops and human settlements,” Reznikov said.