December 19, 2014
Kiev closes in on rebel-held Donetsk as talks of ceasefire collapse
Artillery shells slammed into the outskirts of the Ukrainian city of Donetsk as government forces tightened the noose around the rebel-held redoubt and called on pro-Russian separatists to surrender.
To the east of Donetsk, government forces and the separatists were fighting for control of the town of Krasny Luch, a rail and road junction through which Kiev says the rebels are receiving supplies of Russian military equipment.
Talk of a ceasefire, a possibility raised by a separatist leader yesterday, evaporated as Kiev government forces kept up an offensive to crush the rebels.
Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said if the rebels wanted a ceasefire this meant "raising white flags and putting down their guns".
There would be no truce while the Ukrainian army continued "punitive" military action, the rebels retorted in a statement.
Donetsk, a major industrial hub in Ukraine's Russian-speaking east, resonated with the crash of shells on its outskirts for about eight hours today.
Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Russia of orchestrating the separatist revolt which erupted in April after Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula. It says Russia is funnelling tanks and missile systems to the rebels, who have declared independent "people's republics" in the two main industrial regions. Moscow denies involvement.
Donetsk, a once bustling metropolis of nearly one million people, is facing an increasing shortage of food, water and electricity. Few people are on the streets, though groups of armed separatist fighters can be seen, and few cars. Most people are staying indoors or have left the city for the countryside.
Most shops are closed but the municipal authorities said bakeries were still producing bread despite a lack of electricity. Fuel supplies had run out and few chemists are operating. Banks are closed and pensions and social allowances are not being paid.