Ukraine's fighting intensifies ahead of ceasefire, killing 26

# 13 February 2015 21:08 (UTC +04:00)

The surge in fighting came as the warring sides accused each other of pushing an offensive to make territorial gains ahead of an agreed ceasefire scheduled to take effect on Sunday.

Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Petro Mekhed said that the rebel forces are aiming to capture the government-controlled Mariupol and Debaltsevo towns before the ceasefire deal comes into the force.

Meanwhile, insurgents blamed Ukrainian troops for shelling their positions in Lugansk, Donetsk and Gorlovka cities, the main rebel bastions.

On Thursday evening, three children aged between one and 11 years were killed and their mother was wounded, when a shell hit a house where they lived on Gorlovka outskirts, in the Donetsk region, the city council said.

In Lugansk, three civilians were killed and five wounded, while 14 other people were injured in Donetsk, according local authorities.

In the Kiev-controlled Shchastya town, four people were killed and five wounded when a shell hit a cafe in a residential area, Lugansk Governor Gennady Moskal said.

According to preliminary data, at least five people died and ten others were injured during battles in several small towns in Donetsk region surrounding the besieged Debaltsevo, the regional department of the Interior Ministry said.

Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko informed reporters that 11 government troops had been killed and 40 wounded in clashes with rebels over the past day.

The intensified fighting, some of the heaviest and deadliest in two weeks, occurred just hours after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande reached a peace agreement Thursday in Minsk, the capital of Belarus.

The deal calls for a ceasefire from Feb. 15 and withdrawal of heavy weapons from the frontline, and also covers election timelines, border control and prisoner exchange.