Pro-Russian rebels have flown as many as 12 reconnaissance drones over various areas of the contested Donbas region within the past day, Ukrainian authorities claimed Monday. The presence of the unmanned aerial vehicles comes amid repeated breaches of a week-old ceasefire.
"A total of 12 flights of drones have been recorded in the last day in the Donbas conflict zone," said the Ukrainian Border Service agency. "Ten drones were observed near the villages of Bilenke, Krasna Talivka, Stanychno-Luhanske, Sartana, Mariupol and Zaria, while another two were seen in the Luhansk region between the villages of Milove and Markivka."
Ukrainian authorities believe the drones were supplied by Russia along with troops, tanks, weapons and ammunition they said have come over the Eastern border shared with Russia. Russia denies the claim.
While Ukraine, pro-Russian rebels and Russia are supposed to be observing the latest ceasefire, which was signed in Minsk, Belarus, on Feb. 12 and came into force on Feb. 15, continued fighting in the strategic city of Debaltseve rendered it ineffective from the start, although fighting in other parts of East Ukraine did cease. Within days of the ceasefire’s commencement, Debaltseve looked like it would fall into the hands of the rebels. By Wednesday, Feb. 18, Ukrainian troops were ordered to withdraw from the city by Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko.
Although a blow to Ukrainian troops, the fall of the city gave fresh hope that the ceasefire might be followed. However, within 24 hours, the port city of Mariupol and the city of Donetsk experienced renewed fighting.
As yet, none of the German, French, Ukrainian and Russian leaders who agreed on the ceasefire has said it has ended. However, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk made comments to Fox News on Saturday that suggested it was coming to an end.
“We don't have a ceasefire … because a ceasefire means that no one shoots. Ceasefire means that Russian-led terrorists do not make any kind of ongoing shellings, that they do not kill Ukrainian soldiers and innocent people,” he said, using the term the Ukrainian government employs to describe pro-Russian separatists.