March 14, 2016 / 4:57 PM / a year ago

Proximity along contact line in east Ukraine raises violence risks: OSCE

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BERLIN (Reuters) - International monitors want Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists to pull further apart along the line of contact in east Ukraine, a senior official with Europe's main security and rights watchdog said on Monday.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which monitors the implementation of a ceasefire agreed last year, says the two sides had pushed their positions forward in some locations, narrowing the distance between them to a few hundred meters and increasing the risk of violence.

"They are so close that they could swear at each other over the line of contact," Alexander Hug, deputy chief monitor to the OSCE mission in Ukraine, told Reuters in Berlin.

Ukrainian soldiers and separatists had initially been 2 to 5 km apart and their recent proximity has led to a rise in ceasefire violations, especially in the region of Donetsk.

Implementing the ceasefire agreement reached in February 2015 has stalled.

Reporting by Sabine Siebold, Writing by Joseph Nasr, Editing by Angus MacSwan

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