Signs has emerged Friday pointing to a major offensive in eastern Ukraine led by rebels fighting to break off from the rest of the country. AP reports:
A rebel leader said they will continue to fight and won’t join further peace talks — but left unclear whether they would respect this week’s agreement to pull back heavy weapons from the front line.
NATO says it has indications that a major rebel offensive is coming, due to heavy weapons moving in from Russia as they have prior to previous rebel pushes. Meanwhile, the U.N. human rights agency says the overall death toll in the conflict has risen above 5,000 as fighting escalates.
Separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko said rebel fighters will continue to fight for more territory, and are advancing in five directions to push back Ukrainian government forces to the limits of the eastern Donetsk region.
“Attempts to talk about a cease-fire will no longer be undertaken by our side,” Zakharchenko said.
Any rebel advances would further undermine a tentative peace deal forged this week in Berlin at a meeting of foreign ministers from Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany. Those negotiations concluded with an agreement to uphold a demarcation line defined in September after talks in the Belarusian capital, Minsk.