WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – The United States is troubled by the ongoing clashes between Kiev forces and independence fighters in southeastern Ukraine, where a ceasefire has been in force since Sunday, US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki has stressed in a press statement.
"The United States is gravely concerned by the deteriorating situation in and around Debaltseve in eastern Ukraine. The OSCE [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe] Special Monitoring Mission confirms that attacks continue in this area as well as other locations, including Sievierodonetsk, Luhansk, and Donetsk city," the statement said.
According to the US State Department, the fact that OSCE monitors "have not been provided security guarantees for access" to Debaltseve and local militia's refusal to fully observe the ceasefire in the city threatens the recently-enforced truce, stipulated by the February 12 Minsk agreement.
On Saturday, the head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR), Alexander Zakharchenko, announced that independence fighters would cease fire everywhere except for the inner parts of the Debaltseve territory under the control of the militia. All attempts of Kiev soldiers to leave the Debaltseve encirclement will be stopped, Zakharchenko stated.
OSCE monitoring mission chief Ertugrul Apakan claimed on Sunday that the Donetsk militia had barred OSCE officials from visiting the town of Debaltseve, however, according to DPR negotiator Denis Pushilin, the organization had not submitted any requests for visiting the Debaltseve area.
Some 10,000 Kiev-led troops remain encircled by pro-independence militia in Debaltseve, one of Ukraine's biggest railroad junctions, which has been a site of intense clashes between the conflicting sides in recent weeks.
Fighting between Kiev forces, which launched a military operation against independence supporters in Ukraine's southeast last spring, intensified at the start of 2015, with Donetsk, Mariupol and Debaltseve having been the hot spots of violence. According to the latest UN estimates, over 5,600 people have died as a result of the Ukrainian conflict since mid-April, 2014.