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Ukraine's Poroshenko ends ceasefire with pro-Russian rebels

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has said he will not extend a unilateral ceasefire in the conflict with pro-Russian separatists. Poroshenko said troops loyal to Kyiv would now act to "free the country."

The Ukrainian president said late on Monday that the deadline would not be extended, with regular troops ready to go back on the offensive against the rebels.

Poroshenko said the separatists had failed to take advantage of the offer of peace, with the ceasefire having come to an end at 10 p.m. local time (1900 UTC).

"The unique chance to put the peace plan into practice was not realized," said Poroshenko. "This happened because of the criminal actions of the fighters." He said the militants had violated the truce "more than a hundred times."

"After examining the situation I have decided, as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, not to extend the unilateral ceasefire," Poroshenko added. "We will go on the offensive and liberate our country. Not extending the ceasefire is our response to the terrorists, snipers and marauders."

Phone talks fall short

Monday saw failed

diplomatic efforts by telephone to have the ceasefire extended

, involving Poroshenko as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande.

The European Union has set the same deadline as it considers

imposing more sanctions on Russia

unless the separatists end their aggression.

Kyiv and the EU hold Russia partially responsible for the violence in Ukraine's east, where the separatists have taken control of a number of key cities in 12 weeks of unrest. More than 440 people have died in the violence, and thousands have been displaced.

rc/lw (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)

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