Pro-Russian separatists said on Saturday they were ready for a ceasefire with the Kiev government after increasing gains by Ukrainian forces against rebel forces.
“We are ready for a ceasefire to prevent the proliferation of a humanitarian disaster in Donbass,” Alexander Zakharchenko, prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk people’s republic said in a statement, referring to the area of eastern Ukraine where combat is being waged.
He warned that Donetsk, the main industrial hub which is the centre of the rebel resistance, faced a lack of food, water, and electricity, but said the rebels were ready to defend the city of around one million people.
“In the event of a storm of the city the number of victims will increase by magnitude. We have no humanitarian corridors. There is no supply of medicines … food supplies are nearing their end,” he said.
Ukrainian officials have said they are ready to agree a ceasefire but on condition the rebels surrender their arms.
The office of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was unavailable for immediate comment on Zakharchenko’s statement.
Earlier, Kiev said it had headed off an attempt by Russia to send troops into Ukraine under the guise of peacekeepers with the aim of provoking a large-scale military conflict, a statement Moscow dismissed as a “fairy tale”.