Ukraine accused pro-Russian rebels of waging fresh attacks in the restive east today, further imperilling a fragile truce as EU leaders prepared to approve punishing new sanctions on Moscow.
Russia warned it would retaliate against the new measures, which the EU has nevertheless said could be suspended if Moscow observes the ceasefire deal and removes its troops from Ukraine.
The warring parties have each accused the other of breaching the pact since it was signed Friday, the first backed by both Kiev and Moscow to end a conflict that has plunged East-West relations to a post-Cold War low.
In a surprise announcement, Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko was travelling today to the embattled coastal city of Mariupol, the regional administration of Donetsk said. That trip would be a symbolic show of strength in a strategic government-held area that has come under rebel fire in recent days, and proves Kiev is unlikely to willingly loosen what remains of its grip over the rebellious east.
Ukrainian soldiers were strengthening their positions around the flashpoint port city of Mariupol after weekend shelling by the insurgents left one woman dead. “Despite the ceasefire, Ukrainian positions are still coming under attack,” said Ukrainian defence spokesman Andriy, also accusing Russian troops of stirring trouble.
“Russian sabotage and reconnaissance forces are attacking the terrorists’ positions under the guise of being Ukrainian servicemen,” he said.
Ukrainian forces said separatist militias had violated the truce overnight in Mariupol, which remains in government hands despite a rebel advance, and in the eastern insurgent strongholds of Lugansk and Donetsk.