DONETSK, Ukraine (AFP) -Pro-Russian separa-tists vowed to mobilise up to 100,000 fighters for their latest east Ukraine offensive as the United States mulled sending weapons to Kiev’s outgunned forces after the latest truce bid collapsed.
The pledge to dramatically escalate a nine-month conflict that has already left at least 5,100 people dead came as the rebels bat-tled to encircle the beleaguered transport hub of Debaltseve. “There will be general mobilisation in the (separatist) Donetsk Peo-ple’s Republic in 10 days’ time, we plan on mobilising up to 100,000 men,” rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko told the separatist news agency DAN.
Russian President Vladimir Putin was quoted by TASS news agency as saying he was “extremely concerned” by the situation.
Ukrainian army spokesman Andriy Lysenko said the rebel call-up meant they “don’t have the human resources and haven’t achieved their objectives, that is taking the strategic town” of Debaltseve. Kiev authorities announced at the end of January that they also were calling up 50,000 troops in the face of the latest rebel offensive. Fighting in Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland has intensified in recent days, with five Ukrainian soldiers and seven civilians killed in the last 24 hours.