Ukraine Military Warns Of Danger Ahead Of Ceasefire

militaryThe Ukrainian military on Saturday said that there was a great danger in pro-Russian rebel offensive in east Ukraine ahead of a planned ceasefire, after a heavy fighting was recorded.

An agreement is due to come into effect from Sunday under a peace accord that also envisages a withdrawal of the heavy weapons responsible for casualties, in the conflict that broke out almost a year ago.

A military spokesman, Anatoly Stelmakh, said in a television interview, that “there has been no lull, moreover rebels continue attacks on Debaltseve,” a strategic transport hub northeast of Donetsk city, that has been the focus of some of the fiercest fighting in recent weeks.

The Ukrainian military separately said the situation remained tense in parts of the contested Luhansk region.

The Ukraine President, Petro Poroshenko, also accused Russia of “significantly increasing” its offensive despite the peace agreement reached in Minsk on Thursday.

Shelling was heard in the rebel-held city of Donetsk early on Saturday.

Reports say as the time gets closer for the ceasefire, fears are rising that it won’t be observed.

More than a dozen civilians are said to have died in shelling in eastern Ukraine on Friday.

It is unclear who was behind the shelling but both the Ukrainian military and pro-Russian rebels in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions accuse each other of the attack.

Speaking earlier, President Poroshenko said despite what had been agreed in Minsk, “Russia’s offensive operations have intensified”.

“We are still convinced that the Minsk achievements are in a big danger,” he added.

“Ahead of midnight, rebels are trying to complete tactically important plans to enlarge the territory under their control, primarily in the direction of Debaltseve,” spokesman Andriy Lysenko said

Ukrainian Government Losing Grips On Restive East

A pro-Russian armed man stands guard at a barricade near the state security service building in SlavianskPro-Moscow separatists seized government offices in more Ukrainian towns on Wednesday.

The development is a further sign that authorities in Kiev are losing control of the country’s eastern industrial heartland bordering Russia.

Gunmen who turned up at dawn took control of official buildings in Horlivka, a town of almost 300,000 people, said a Reuters photographer.

The heavily armed men wore the same military uniforms without insignia as other unidentified “green men” who have joined pro-Russian protesters with clubs and chains in seizing control of towns across Ukraine’s Donbass coal and steel belt.

Some 30 pro-Russian separatists also seized a city council building in Alchevsk, further east in Luhansk region, Interfax-Ukraine news agency said.

They took down the Ukrainian flag and flew a city banner before allowing workers to leave.

Attempts to contain the insurgency by the government in Kiev have proved largely unsuccessful, with security forces repeatedly outmanoeuvred by the separatists. The West and the new Ukrainian government accuse Russia of being behind the unrest, a charge Moscow denies.

Daniel Baer, the U.S. ambassador to the OSCE, a European security watchdog which has monitors in the region, told reporters in Vienna: “I think it’s very clear that what is happening would not be happening without Russian involvement.”

A police official in Donetsk, the provincial capital where separatists have declared a “People’s Republic of Donetsk”, said separatists were also in control of the Horlivka police station, having seized the regional police headquarters earlier in April.

The murder of a town councillor from Horlivka, who opposed the separatists, was cited by Kiev last week among reasons for launching new efforts to regain control of the region.

Wednesday’s takeovers followed the fall of the main government buildings on Tuesday further east in Luhansk, capital of Ukraine’s easternmost province, driving home just how far control over the densely populated region has slipped from the central government in Kiev.