DONETSK, Ukraine (AFP) – The ceasefire in Ukraine hung by a thread Wednesday after Pre-sident Petro Poroshenko accused pro-Russian rebels of sinking the peace process and ordered troop reinforcements to eastern cities.
Artillery explosions could be heard around the airport in Donetsk, where Ukrainian soldiers have been holding out for weeks against surroun-ding separatist forces. Following salvos of Grad multiple rockets and cannon fire, black smoke rose from the area of Peski, a government-held village near the airport.
Later Wednesday, ceasefire observers represe-nting government forces, rebels, Russia and the European security body OSCE were due to “discuss a possible path to a ceasefire in the area of the airport”, a spokesman for the Ukrainian military said.
But the already tattered truce, which was sig-ned September 5, has looked ever more fragile since rebels defied the government Sunday and held leadership elections that they described as legitimising their two self-declared independent states.
Russia said it “respected” the elections, but Kiev, the European Union and United States all said that the polls had badly damaged the peace process, which was based on giving rebel areas autonomy, not independence.
Rebel leaders have also threatened to expand their territory, especially to the Black Sea port of Mariupol.
In response, Poroshenko said late Tuesday that he had ordered reinforcements to guard against a “possible offensive in the direction of Mariupol, Berdyansk, Kharkiv and Luhansk north”.