EAST UKRAINE – UNHCR says a ceasefire between eastern separatists and Kiev has reduced the number of casualties. However, the UN warned, a humanitarian crisis was unfolding in East Ukraine. The Ukraine conflict began when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, and ended with the fall of the strategic railway hub of Debaltseve in Feb 2015. By that time the rebels had also seized Donetsk airport.
UKRAINE, East – Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s Foreign Minister, is reported to have dismissed Kiev’s demand that the rebels stop firing during the ceasefire as ‘ridiculous’. Ukraine says its won’t pull back its troops unless the ceasefire is observed by Russian-backed rebels who having seized Debaltseve are now reported to have their sights set on the strategically important town of Mariupol which would link seized territory to Crimea. Meanwhile, Russian firm Gazprom said supplies of oil and gas to Ukraine would be pulled by Saturday should Kiev not come up with the next round of payment.
UKRAINE, East – Ukraine forces lost eleven soldiers with 40 injured over last 24 hours. Most of the fighting still concentrated on securing control of Debaltseve whose railway links Luhansk and Donetsk.
UKRAINE, East – Debaltseve links Donetsk to Luhansk. Russian backed rebels in both areas have declared their intention to be ‘self ruled’. The OSCE blamed the rebels for violence in another strategic town – Mariupol – earlier this week.
Rebel leader Alexander Zacharchenko claims to be leader of the newly formed Donetsk People’s Republic.