Pro-Russian rebels reject peace deal, launch new offensive

Pro-Russian rebels reject peace deal, launch new offensive
# 24 January 2015 03:32 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. Pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine rejected a previously signed peace deal Friday and launched a new multipronged offensive against Ukrainian government troops, upending recent European attempts to mediate an end to the fighting, APA reports quoting Associated Press.

The main separatist leader in the rebellious Donetsk region vowed to push Ukrainian soldiers out of the area and said insurgents would not take part in any more cease-fire talks. Another rebel went even further, saying they would not abide by a peace deal signed in September.

Separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko said rebel fighters went on the offensive to gain more territory and forestall a Ukrainian attack. He declared they would push government troops to the border of the Donetsk region and possibly beyond.

"Attempts to talk about a cease-fire will no longer be undertaken by our side," Zakharchenko said.

The peace deal signed in September in the Belarusian capital of Minsk envisaged a cease-fire and a pullout of heavy weapons from a division line in eastern Ukraine. It has been repeatedly violated by both sides, and heavy artillery and rocket barrages have increased the civilian death toll in the last few weeks.

Foreign ministers from Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany agreed Wednesday to revive that division line, but fighting has continued unabated. The U.N. human rights agency on Friday raised its estimate of the conflict's overall death toll to nearly 5,100 since April.

The tentative peace deal forged this week in Berlin called for Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed separatists to pull back their heavy arms 15 kilometers (9 miles) on either side of the line, although there was no agreement on a withdrawal of troops.

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