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Fears for truce as attacking rebels mass near Ukraine port city

Update: February, 24/2015 - 09:00

KIEV — Pro-Russian forces massing near Ukraine's port city of Mariupol are continuing to attack government troop positions, Kiev said on Monday, fuelling concerns for the fate of a UN-backed ceasefire.

Continued hostilities meant a pull-back of heavy weapons could not go ahead as agreed, Ukrainian officials said.

"As Ukrainian positions are still being fired upon there can be no talk yet of a withdrawal of arms," military spokesman Vladyslav Seleznyov wrote in a statement on Facebook on Monday.

Tensions were also high following a bomb blast on Sunday in the normally peaceful eastern city of Kharkiv. In their latest toll, authorities said that three people had died in the "terrorist" attack.

Ukraine's currency, the hryvnia, plummeted some 10 per cent on Monday because of the instability.

The West has warned of additional sanctions on Russia should the shaky truce deteriorate further, especially after rebels captured the strategic town of Debaltseve last week in defiance of the ceasefire slated to start February 15.

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, tasked with monitoring the truce, "concludes that the ceasefire is not holding in critical, strategic points," including near Mariupol and in Debaltseve, the deputy head of the OSCE mission, Alexander Hug, told France 24 television.

A meeting of the foreign ministers of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France was scheduled to take place in Paris on Tuesday to discuss the truce's implementation.

However a source in the Ukrainian foreign ministry raised doubt, saying Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin "intends to go to the meeting tomorrow (Tuesday) but the situation might change." — AFP


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