Ukraine: Rebels will not withdraw heavy weapons

-- EU widens Russia sanctions as Merkel calls peace accord 'fragile.'

BRUSSELS (AA) – Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine will only withdraw heavy weapons from the front line when Ukraine does, rebel official Denis Pushilin told Interfax news agency on Monday. 

"The separatist republic is only ready for a mutual withdrawal of equipment, Pushilin said. The Ukrainian government said Monday that it was not ready to withdraw heavy weapons while the separatists were violating the ceasefire.

At least 16 people have died in the fighting in eastern Ukraine since the cease-fire agreement was signed on Friday.

On Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the situation in eastern Ukraine remained fragile and that the path to a comprehensive peace would be "extremely difficult".

"Particularly with regard to Debaltseve this is not unexpected", Merkel said during a press conference in Berlin.

Rebel officials have said that Debaltseve is "our territory," and not covered by the cease-fire agreement.

 

- Russia calls extended EU sanctions 'absurd'

The European Union, intent on maintaining pressure on Russia, added new Ukrainians and Russians to the sanctions list on Monday, despite the cease-fire agreement.

But Russia's foreign ministry said on its official Twitter page Monday: ''New sanctions against Russian citizens look absurd after agreements on crisis settlement reached in Minsk.''

Russia's foreign ministry said that the EU had "failed to analyze" the reasons for the continuing conflict. 

The EU's latest sanctions include freezing of assests and prohibition of travel. 

The new sanctions list includes Russian First Deputy Defence Minister Arkady Bakhin, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov and deputy chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces, Andrei Kartapolov.

The list, published in the Official Journal of the European Communities on Monday, includes pro-Russian separatist groups blamed for ''undermining the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine."

The foreign ministry warned that Russia would respond to the new sanctions. The Russian ruble fell 1.6 percent against the dollar after the extended sanctions were announced.

 www.aa.com.tr/en

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