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Ukraine

Ukraine relaunches 'anti-terrorism' operation against separatists

Less than a day after announcing the end to a ceasefire, the Ukrainian military has begun striking pro-Russian separatist strongholds in the country's east. Kyiv has vowed to free the land from the "terrorists."

Rebel fighters in eastern Ukraine came under attack on Tuesday morning by the Ukrainian military, which relaunched its campaign to drive out the separatist groups.

"I can inform you that in the morning, the active phase of the anti-terrorist operation was renewed. Our armed forces are attacking the terrorists' bases and strongholds," parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Turchynov told Ukrainian lawmakers on Tuesday.

After declaring a week-long truce and then extending that agreement through Monday evening, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko rejected the idea of waiting any longer on the separatists to begin peace efforts.

"The unique chance to put the peace plan into practice was not realized," Poroshenko said, blaming the fighters.

"We will go on the offensive and liberate our country. Not extending the ceasefire is our response to the terrorists, snipers and marauders," he added.

Four people were killed on Tuesday when a shuttle bus came under fire in Kramatorsk, located on the Donetsk region, according to news agency DPA. Local media also reported a tank battle in Karlivka.

Russia blames 'influence from abroad'

The Russian Foreign Ministry blamed foreign powers for Poroshenko's decision not to extend the truce in a statement issued on Tuesday.

"There is an impression that the change in Kyiv's position...could not have come about without influence from abroad, despite the position of leading EU member states," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

"We once again urge [partners] to stop using Ukraine as a bargaining chip in geopolitical games," it added.

Over the weekend and again on Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande held teleconferences with Poroshenko and Putin. However, Putin's support for an extension rather than compliance with Kyiv, which wanted clear Russian support for long-term peace, appeared to hinder the diplomatic effort.

The EU, US and Kyiv believe Russia to be providing financial and logistical support to the separatist movement in eastern Ukraine. They have threatened Moscow with further sanctions if it does not take action to de-escalate tensions.

Fighting in eastern Ukraine has claimed more than 440 lives and displaced thousands since it began roughly 12 weeks ago.

kms/se (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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