Ceasefire Agreement Doesn’t Help the Most Intensive Fighting
Pro-Russian rebels pounded encircled Ukrainian government forces on Monday and Kiev said it would not pull back heavy guns while a truce was being violated, leaving a European-brokered peace deal on the verge of collapse. The European Union kept pressure on Russia and the rebels by announcing a new list of separatists and Russians targeted with sanctions, to which Moscow promised an “adequate” response. The United States said it was “gravely concerned” by the fighting in and around the town of Debaltseve in eastern Ukraine after a ceasefire agreement that came into force on Sunday and said it was closely monitoring reports of a new column of Russian military equipment moving toward the region. “These aggressive actions and statements by the Russia-backed separatists threaten the most recent ceasefire,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement. “We call on Russia and the separatists it backs to halt all attacks immediately.” Fighting subsided in many parts of eastern Ukraine under a ceasefire deal reached last week in marathon talks involving the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine. But the truce appears to have been stillborn in Debaltseve, where the most intensive fighting has taken place in recent weeks.