Ukraine truce 'breached 40 times within 24 hours'

- Fighting in Ukraine continues around Debaltseve despite cease-fire deal agreed in Minsk.

KIEV (AA) – The cease-fire between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists agreed in Minsk has been violated 40 times within 24 hours, bringing the total number of breaches to 128, according to Ukraine’s Counterterrorism Center.

The statement came on Tuesday as both sides in the conflict and journalists in the region reported ongoing shelling and fire from both sides around the city of Debaltseve.

The center claimed that pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine had used heavy weaponry during attempts to seize the city but were thwarted by the Ukrainian military.

Separatists also targeted the villages of Popasna, Sanjarovka and Chernukhino, according to the statement, which added Ukrainian troops had regained control of the main road between Donetsk and Luhansk - the only road to Debaltseve.

The statement further said that government forces regained control of the village of Logvinove - through which the road passes - after a few days of intense fighting and were able to deliver food and military equipment to troops.

- 'Concrete steps'

The separatists were also said to have attacked the village of Shirokino near Mauripol, but Ukrainian troops maintained control of their positions, it added.

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko discussed the situation in a teleconference on Monday evening.

He said in a statement on Tuesday: "In view of the situation in Debaltseve, where the agreed ceasefire is not fully observed, leaders agreed upon concrete steps to enable the monitoring of the situation through OSCE.

“Chancellor Merkel and the Ukrainian President have called on the Russian President to use his influence on the separatists to stop the fire. As agreed in Minsk, heavy weapons should be withdrawn beginning from Tuesday."

The agreement signed in Minsk on 12 February called for a complete ceasefire to be effective from midnight on Feb. 15.

While most sectors of the front in eastern Ukraine observed the ceasefire, within hours artillery fire restarted in the area around Debaltseve, where separatist forces claimed to have surrounded between 7,000 and 10,000 Ukrainian military personnel.  

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