Rebels Fight for Territory in E.Ukraine Ahead of Truce

Rebels Fight for Territory in E.Ukraine Ahead of TruceRebels Fight for Territory in E.Ukraine Ahead of Truce

The Ukrainian military said on Saturday there was no let-up in a pro-Russian offensive in east Ukraine with separatists trying to seize more territory before a ceasefire comes into force at midnight.

The truce envisages the creation of a neutral “buffer zone” and withdrawal of the heavy weapons responsible for many of the 5,000 casualties in the conflict that broke out almost a year ago, Reuters reported.

“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 at a daily televised briefing in Kiev.

The ceasefire came into force at midnight local time on February 14.

Debaltseve, a strategic transport hub northeast of the rebel-controlled city of Donetsk, has been the focus of some of the fiercest fighting in recent weeks.

Lysenko said separatists were receiving support from fighters and military equipment crossing the border from Russia into Ukraine. Moscow denies supplying the rebels with arms and troops.

Seven Ukrainian service personnel were killed and 23 wounded in fighting since Friday until Saturday afternoon, Lysenko said.

  Bomb Explosion

A bomb exploded near the residence of Alexander Zakharchenko, 100 meters away from the journalists who had gathered for a press conference with the leader of the self proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.

“Lawmakers were at my residence two hours before this happened. We were nearby when a bomb exploded 100 meters away,” Zakharchenko was quoted by RIA Novosti as saying.

On Thursday, the Contact Group, comprising envoys from Moscow, Kiev, DPR, self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic and OSCE, signed a peace deal aimed at ending the conflict in southeastern Ukraine. The deal was agreed upon by leaders of Ukraine, France, Germany and Russia after long talks in Minsk, the capital of Belarus.

The measures include a ceasefire between Kiev forces and independence supporters in eastern Ukraine, the creation of a buffer zone between the two sides through the withdrawal of heavy weaponry from the region and an all-for-all prisoner exchange.