Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko rejected a ceasefire offer sent last week by Vladimir Putin, according to a Moscow spokesman. On Sunday, Poroshenko vowed to retake captured Ukrainian land.
As Ukrainian troops recaptured nearly all of the territory surrounding Donetsk airport over the weekend, the Kremlin accused President Petro Poroshenko on Sunday of rejecting a peace offer from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Putin, told Russian media that Moscow was worried about an "escalation" of hostilities by Ukraine that was hampering peace efforts. "In recent days, Russia has consistently undertaken efforts as an intermediary in regulating the conflict," said Peskov. However, he added that Ukraine was intent on undermining these attempts with more violence.
On Sunday evening, Russian television channel NTV published a letter sent by Putin to Poroshenko last week, which included a plan for both sides to remove their heavy artillery from the conflict zone. Putin also called for "urgent measures for the cessation of mutual shelling."
A spokesman for the Ukrainian president declined to offer an immediate comment.
An empty city
Streets in Donetsk, a city once home to more than a million people, were completely abandoned on Sunday as the offensive at the airport brought fighting close to the city. The Donetsk airport has long been out of commission, but with its control tower and extensive outbuildings it has taken on strategic importance in the ongoing fighting between the Ukrainian army and pro-Russian separatists.
Despite the renewed shelling, thousands gathered in Kyiv on Sunday at a peace march dedicated to the memory of 13 civilians killed in an attack on a passenger bus on Tuesday, the first large loss of civilian life in 2015.
"We will not give away one scrap of Ukrainian land," President Poroshenko told the crowd, many of whom were carrying signs which read "Je Suis Volnovakha," referring to the town where the bus attack occurred and echoing the "Je Suis Charlie" rallying cry adopted in the wake of this month's terrorist attacks in Paris.
The two sides agreed to a ceasefire in September, but the deal has regularly been violated in the months since then. A so-called contact group, consisting of representatives from Russia, Ukraine, separatist leaders and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), postponed talks which had been planned for last week.
Proposed talks in Kazakhstan between Russian, Ukrainian, French and German leaders are also on ice, as no significant progress has been made in reining in the violence.
es/cmk (AP, Reuters)