Pro-Russia forces in eastern Ukraine have vowed to continue their attacks on the Ukrainian army positions if the new peace talks with Kiev fail to bring any practical results.
“Should the negotiations collapse … the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics reserve the right to pursue their offensive until the entire Donetsk and Lugansk regions are freed,” read a statement issued by pro-Russia forces on Friday.
The statement came hours after the peace talks between Ukraine and pro-Russia forces in the Belarusian capital city of Minsk were cancelled following Kiev’s refusal to attend the talks.
Earlier in the day, Denis Pushilin, the plenipotentiary representative of the self-proclaimed republic of Donetsk, slammed “Kiev’s hesitation and uncertainty” to attend much-awaited Minsk talks, saying, “We have met our commitments.”
Back in September 2014, Minsk hosted the representatives of Ukraine, Russia, and the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk who finally inked a ceasefire deal to end deadly clashes in eastern Ukraine. However, the truce has been violated almost daily by both the Ukrainian military and pro-Russia forces.
The two mainly Russian-speaking regions of Donetsk and Lugansk in eastern Ukraine have been the scene of deadly clashes between pro-Russia forces and the Ukrainian army since Kiev’s military operation started in April 2014, in a bid to crush the protests.
Violence intensified in May 2014, after the two flashpoint regions held local referendums in which their residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence from Ukraine and joining the Russian Federation.
The fighting has left more than 5,100 people killed and over 1.5 million displaced, the United Nations says.