Russian-backed rebels on Monday pushed forward with a new offensive that has brought an all-out war back to eastern Ukraine after a five-month ceasefire, bringing U.S. and European threats of tighter Western financial sanctions against Moscow. Reuters report:
Washington and Brussels are both considering new measures after accusing Russia of openly supporting the latest rebel advance in Ukraine with money, arms and troops on the ground.
Ambassadors of NATO countries and Ukraine were due to meet in Brussels to discuss a response to the fighting, their first such emergency meeting since August. Moscow denies playing a military role, and Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Kiev of prolonging the conflict by refusing to talk to the rebels. He also said a “foreign NATO legion” was fighting alongside Ukrainian forces.
The government in Kiev said it had ordered a state of emergency across the two rebel-dominated provinces and placed all Ukrainian territory on high alert. Its military said seven Ukrainian soldiers had been killed and 24 wounded in intensified clashes in the past 24 hours, with heavy fighting at Debaltseve, a small town the rebels have vowed to seize to safeguard their main strongholds.