Separatist rebels have launched an offensive against government positions west of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, breaking a shaky ceasefire deal brokered in February. Diane Hodges reports.
(NAT SOUND OF FIGHTING) Separatist rebels and government forces trade bombardments near the eastern rebel stronghold of Donetsk. Government officials accuse the rebels of attacking with tanks and heavy weapons. The rebels say government troops are firing artillery. Andrei Filatov with the Russian news service Spasidonbass is embedded with the rebels. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) SPASIDONBASS.RU CORRESPONDENT ANDREI FILATOV, SAYING (OVER SOUND OF INTENSE GUNFIRE): "This is coming from Shyrokyne. 10 minutes ago the Ukrainian side opened fire, and now rebels from the Pyatnashka brigade are engaging in return fire against the Ukrainian side. (INTERRUPTED BY GUNFIRE) Over there, 100 metres ahead of us, there are frontline positions, and the guys are engaging in the machine gun contact with the enemy." The fighting is the most intense the area has seen since a ceasefire was brokered in Minsk in February, but the two sides regularly accuse each other of violating the truce. Ukrainian officials warned last week that Russia had moved fresh forces into the region, Russia denies the charges. More than six thousand people in the eastern part of Ukraine have died in the fighting so far, but with no signs of a political agreement to determine the fate of the region, that number seems destined to rise.