On Tuesday, Ukrainian forces in the eastern region, with the assistance of air and artillery strikes, struck at the pro-Russian separatist bases shortly after the announcement President Petro Poroshenko made to end the ceasefire, Reuters reports (Ukraine Forces Attack Rebel Positions After Ceasefire Ends by Richard Balmforth and Natalia Zinets). The defense ministry, after confirming that Ukrainian forces had launched attacks from air and land, said, “The terrorists’ plan to significantly escalate armed confrontation has been disrupted and the threat of losses to the civilian population and service personnel has been liquidated.” The number of casualties are not immediately known. Poroshenko, who accuses Russia of aiding the rebels and prolonging the conflict, decided not to renew the 10 day unilateral ceasefire after a four way call with German and French leaders and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. In an early morning statement, Poroshenko stated that Ukraine had not seen “concrete steps for de-escalating the situation, including strengthening controls on the border.” In a statement from Moscow, the foreign ministry stated, “There is an impression that the change in Kiev’s position … could not have come about without influence from abroad, despite the position of leading EU member states.” Sergei Naryshkin, an ally of Putin and the speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, commented, “We think that without a truce, without the start of dialog, it is simply impossible to restore peace, justice and law and order in Ukraine.” Poroshenko, in office only three weeks, has been dealing with increasing anger at home and from new political establishments over military losses and calling for more forceful action against the rebels. A tweet by the Ukrainian foreign ministry on Monday night confirms that, since June 20 when the ceasefire began, 27 Ukrainian servicemen have been killed and 69 wounded.
Pro-Russian separatism exploded in Ukraine’s east in April following street protests in Kiev that toppled Moscow backed president, Viktor Yanukovich, who refused to sign a free trade deal with the European Union that would of shifted Ukraine westwards. Russia then annexed Crimea and separatist rebels in Ukraine’s Russian speaking east seized buildings and strategic points declaring them a “people’s republic” and calling for union with Russia. Last Friday, Poroshenko signed the EU deal in defiance of threats by Russia to retaliate the trade action. While Moscow already faced asset freezes and visa bans from the EU, Moscow could face more penalties unless the Pro-Russian rebels do not wind down the crisis in the Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk provinces. On Friday, the EU leaders promised to meet again to discuss additional penalties this time on new people and companies with asset freezes as early as next week since they have already compiled a list of 60 names. Even with the promise of hard hitting economic sanctions, the EU is cautious over implementing them as Russia is a major energy supplier.