Kyiv has ruled out holding talks this week to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine, accusing Russian-backed separatists of launching fresh attacks one day after the two sides generally observed a so-called “Day of Silence.”
Leonid Kuchma, the Ukrainian government’s representative to talks with the rebels and a former president, said Wednesday that he did not consider such a meeting “advisable” given that one side “cannot ensure a cease-fire regime.”
He said the rebels need to show that they “actually want peace, not war,” and have "full control over their armed units.”
Talks on a wider resolution to the conflict had been expected to be held Friday in Belarus.
The Ukrainian military reported Wednesday that separatists launched 12 attacks just 24 hours after both sides began observing a halt in hostilities dubbed the "Day of Silence." It said the rebels used grenade launchers, anti-tank guided missiles, mortars, small arms and a tank weapon.
The "Day of Silence" was designed to encourage both sides to observe the wider cease-fire agreed to in September, which has been marred by sporadic fighting, and then begin pulling back their heavy weaponry from the front line to form a buffer zone.
The United States and its allies have imposed painful economic sanctions on Russia over what they view as Moscow's support for the rebels.
On Wednesday, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev acknowledged the sanctions are hurting his country's economy.
He estimated the sanctions have cost Russia tens of billions of dollars, but he insisted they have been similarly painful for Europe.
The prime minister also urged the Russian people to be patient, saying the ruble is temporarily undervalued and will eventually strengthen.