Ukraine Crisis: Sides Refuse To Withdraw Big Guns
Fighting had eased in many areas since a ceasefire came into force on Sunday, but the rebels have refused to halt attacks on a town where Ukrainian forces are encircled.
Monitors from the OSCE security group were expected to try to reach the besieged town, Debaltseve, after Germany said it had agreed steps with the leaders of Russia and Ukraine to ensure the observers had “free access” in the east.
The German chancellor and Ukrainian President called on the Russian President to exercise his influence on the separatists to enforce the ceasefire.”
A call by Berlin for the withdrawal of heavy weaponry to start seemed to have fallen on deaf ears, though officials from Russia, Ukraine, the OSCE and the rebels were expected to discuss implementation of the peace deal by phone.
“We do not have the right (to stop fighting for Debaltseve). It’s even a moral thing. It’s internal territory,” Denis Pushilin, a senior separatist representative, said.
“We have to respond to fire, to work on destroying the enemy’s fighting positions.”
He said: “We are ready at any time, we have everything ready for a mutual withdrawal. We will not do anything unilaterally that would make our soldiers targets.”
Ukraine’s military said on Tuesday that five soldiers had been killed and 14 wounded in the past 24 hours.
Ukraine’s military reiterated that its forces could also not start withdrawing big weapons such as heavy artillery, as set out in the deal reached at marathon talks brokered by France and Germany in the Belarussian capital, Minsk, last Thursday.
The pull-back can happen only on fulfillment of the first point of the Minsk agreements of the ceasefire.
“In the last 24 hours there had been firing so there is no ceasefire and no precondition for a pull-back of heavy weapons either.”