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Ukraine peace deal 'in great danger', Petro Poroshenko says

Ukraine peace deal 'in great danger', Petro Poroshenko says - Telegraph

"After what we concluded in Minsk, these are not only attacks againstcivilians but also against the Minsk agreement," he added, referring tothe shelling of the town of Artemivsk that killed three people including aseven-year-old.

The ceasefire, due to take effect from 2200 GMT Saturday, will be the firsttest of the commitment by Kiev and pro-Russian separatists to thefreshly-inked peace plan.

But with separatists fighting to conquer more territory ahead of the truce andKiev forces digging in, there are fears over whether anyone will observe thetruce, considered vital to the success of the peace roadmap.

The UN Security Council is expected to meet on Sunday for an emergency sessionto shore up the ceasefire deal, diplomats said.

The United States said it believed Russia was continuing to deploy heavyweapons ahead of the ceasefire.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the US had received reports ofheavy weapons being moved into eastern Ukraine from Russia over the past fewdays, and more apparently on the way.

The US have released satellite photographs of what they say is Russianself-propelled artillery near Debaltseve. @GeoffPyatt

"This is clearly not in the spirit of this week's agreement," Psakitold reporters.

She said the Russian military had deployed large amounts of artillery andmultiple rocket launcher systems and was using them to shell Ukrainianpositions.

Friday's fresh fighting came after rebels and Kiev agreed to the wide-rangingplan on Thursday following marathon talks in Minsk between the leaders ofRussia, Ukraine, France and Germany.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned Russia that the EU, which hasalready slapped Moscow with sanctions over the crisis, is not ruling outfurther measures if the truce fails.

The G7 nations - Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom andthe United States - also voiced concern about the violence and the build-upof weapons in eastern Ukraine.

Welcoming the peace plan, the group of industrialised nations called on allsides to refrain from moves that could scuttle the deal.

The G7 warned it was ready to "intensify the costs" for anyone whobroke the terms of the agreement.

Ukraine's deputy defence minister Petro Mekhed, meanwhile, accused the rebelsof wanting to "raise their flag" over railway hub Debaltseve,scene of the most bitter recent fighting, and strategic port Mariupol aheadof the ceasefire.

"Ukraine is expecting an escalation and taking all necessary measures tobe able to respond," Mekhed told journalists.

The fragile agreement was seen as the best hope of ending the conflict, whichhas killed at least 5,480 people and ratcheted East-West tensions to highsnot seen since the Cold War, but scepticism remains high after the collapseof a similar previous peace plan.

Members of the Ukrainian armed forces ride on an armoured personnelcarrier (APC) near Debaltseve, eastern Ukraine (REUTERS)

Kiev and the West accuse Russia of stoking the war in ex-Soviet Ukraine bypouring arms and troops to help the pro-Russian rebels fighting Kievgovernment troops in Ukraine's industrial east. Moscow denies the charges.

Ukraine's military said that fighting remained fiercest around Debaltseve,with rebels firing missiles at the beleaguered railway hub mid-way betweenthe main separatist bastions of Donetsk and Lugansk.

Kiev has accused Russia of deploying another 50 tanks across the border duringthe talks in Minsk.

Rebel leaders - seen by the West as Kremlin puppets - have said the new dealraises hopes of peace but warned there would be no more talking if it fails.

The new Minsk agreement is broadly similar to an earlier failed deal inSeptember, except that the new heavy weapons-free zone will be 50 to 140kilometres (31-87 miles) wide, depending on the range of the weapon - doublethe width of the buffer zone agreed in September.

Kiev will also begin retaking control over the approximately 250 mile stretchof Russia's border with rebel-held Ukraine, but only after local electionsare held.

The border is entirely under Russian and pro-Russian rebel control and isused, according to Kiev, as a conduit for separatist supplies.

Separatist-held territories will be granted a degree of autonomy to beestablished through talks.


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