Leaders of the G7 group of industrialized nations say they're concerned about increased violence in eastern Ukraine despite a new peace deal. The US believes Russia is sending in more heavy weapons.
The G7 group said it was concerned about the buildup of violence in eastern Ukraine, ahead of the start of a negotiated ceasefire this weekend.
Fighting in the region killed at least 26 in the latest surge in fighting, with pro-Russia separatists trying to seize as much territory as they can before the ceasefire takes effect.
"All parties should refrain from actions in the coming days that would hinder the start of the ceasefire," the G7 group said in a statement late on Friday.
It said the separatists had moved beyond a border agreed upon last year in the strategic town of Debaltseve, where fighting was taking place. "Russian-backed separatist militias are operating beyond the line of contact," the group said, "causing numerous civilian casualties.
The G7 threatened to take action if the agreement, brokered this week by Germany and France in Minsk, was violated.
"The G7 stands ready to adopt appropriate measures against those who violate the 'Minsk' package ... in particular against those who do not observe the agreed comprehensive ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy weapons."
The group is made up of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US - as well as representatives of the EU. Russia, which denies the West's claims it supplies the separatists with troops and weapons, was kicked out of the then-G8 after its annexation of Crimea.
Ukrainian President Viktor Poroshenko said the increase in fighting in eastern Ukraine was undermining the Minsk deal.
"Unfortunately after the Minsk agreement, Russia's offensive has significantly increased. We still think that the agreement is in great danger," Poroshenko said.
More weapons to separatists?
The US has accused Moscow of providing more weapons to the pro-Russian separatists.
Under the latest Minsk agreement, a ceasefire should come into effect at midnight Kyiv time on Sunday (2200 UTC/GMT on Saturday), and heavy weapons will be withdrawn from the frontlines of the conflict.
The West has largely reacted with caution to the deal, which comes five months after a ceasefire was brokered in Minsk that failed to stop the conflict.
The UN estimates that almost 5,400 people have been killed since the fighting in the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk broke out in April 2014, following the overthrow of former President Viktor Yanukovich and the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.
jr/sb (Reuters, dpa, AFP)