Kiev: Fighting between the Ukrainian forces and pro-independence rebels persisted Monday around the strategic railway hub of Debaltseve in eastern Ukraine, despite the announcement of a ceasefire from Saturday midnight.
Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said Monday that five government soldiers were killed and 25 others wounded in attacks by pro-independence rebels in eastern Ukraine in the past 24 hours, according to a Xinhua report. "The Ukrainian army had fired only in response when coming under attack," he said.
According to Ukrainian military, the ceasefire regime helped to calm down the fighting near the rebel-controlled cities of Lugansk and Donetsk in the eastern part of the country, while battles in Debaltseve town, a strategic railway hub linking Lugansk and Donetsk, were still underway.
Eduard Basurin, a senior rebel commander, also confirmed that hostilities were raging around Debaltseve, accusing the Ukrainian army of shelling the insurgent positions. Basurin said that the rebel forces would start withdrawal of heavy weapons from the frontline "only after government armed forces stop shelling".
Earlier in the day, Ukraine's National Security and Defence Council said that the Ukrainian forces were ready for the pullback of heavy weapons after "a complete ceasefire".
Following a deal signed last week between Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in the Belarusian capital of Minsk, a ceasefire was announced between the warring parties in eastern Ukraine from Saturday midnight.
Furthermore, under the deal, the warring sides are to withdraw artillery, rocket launchers and tanks from the frontline from midnight Tuesday. The deal between the four leaders seeks to end the ten-month-old conflict in Ukraine, which has killed over 5,300 people so far.