23/Jan/2015 // 255 Viewers
MOSCOW—Pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk will not initiate further cease-fire talks with Ukraine and plan to expand battles for new territory, their leader was quoted as saying Friday in warnings that all but ensure fresh confrontations in eastern Ukraine.
It was unclear whether the comments by rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko reflected decisions by insurgents across eastern Ukraine, where fighting began last year between Ukrainian forces and pro-Moscow separatists angered by the country’s Western-leaning policies.
But Donetsk has been at the center of recent clashes that have dealt serious blows to attempts to keep the region’s four-month-old cease-fire from full collapse.
Rebel forces are now emboldened after the partial withdrawal of Ukrainian military units on Thursday from the Donetsk airport, a key battleground.
“There will be no attempts to speak about a cease-fire on our part.” the Russian news service Interfax quoted Zakharchenko as telling a group of university students, specifying that the separatists did not intend to make any more opening overtures to end hostilities.
In response, a Ukraine military spokesman said its forces will observe the lines set by the cease-fire accord reached in September in Minsk despite claims that rebels have waged steady attacks.
“To speak about how realistic these messages are, it’s very difficult,” Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council spokesman Col. Andriy Lysenko told reporters in Kiev on Friday. “Those statements, that they will stop the peace? There has never been a day when they didn’t shell. They shelled less on some days, but it never stopped."
Zakharchenko claimed Friday that the militias were advancing on several fronts, including trying to reach Mariupol in order to control more water resources, according to Interfax.
“We will carry on the offensive up to the borders of the Donetsk region, and if I see a threat coming from the other sides, it will be eliminated,” Interfax quoted Zakharchenko as saying.
The military spokesman Lysenko, in turn, denied that the militias had made real gains anywhere except for the area around Checkpoint 31, a border crossing that Ukraine accused Russian troops of seizing earlier this week.