Pro-Russian Rebels Preparing Advance 'On All Fronts', Warn Ukraine Fighters

Ukraine
Pro-Russian rebels observe the area at a front line outside the village of Molochnoye, north-east from Donetsk, March 8, 2015. Marko Djurica/REUTERS

Pro-Russian rebels are preparing an advance "on all fronts" in Ukraine's eastern territories by the end of this week, according to purported conversations between rebels, which were reportedly intercepted by Kiev-loyal forces.

A statement on Facebook by the pro-Ukrainian Azov volunteer battalion, said that rebels are planning a possible attack on the town of Lysychansk, situated northwest of the rebel-held city of Luhansk, as well as pushes "in other directions" after today.

Post by Батальйон спеціального призначення "Азов" - нова сторінка.

The press secretary of the Azov battalion Vladislav Seleznev, told Ukrainian news publication Ukrainskaya Pravda his colleagues were currently working to verify the intercepted information.

While the initial statement by the Azov battalion cites the timeframe for the planned attack as "after 10th March," Seleznev clarified that the rebels were debating an exact date between 10th and 15th March, meaning an advance could happen before the end of the week.

"We have the capabilities to fully respond to such a situation," Seleznev said. "We are prepared for any development of this situation."

"We have completely complied with the withdrawal of heavy weapons and heavy artillery and we are relying that the other side will also observe the Minsk agreement in full," he added referring to the withdrawal of arms from the buffer zone agreed by the leaders of Ukraine and Russia in a meeting in Minsk, Belarus last month.

Hopes that the conflict was entering a less turbulent phase were affected further after Anatoliy Stelmach, press-secretary for Ukraine's armed operations in the east (ATO), said in a briefing this morning that the rebels had already mounted artillery attacks beyond the designated line of retreat and had continued to push on the coastal village of Shyrokyne, less than 15 miles east of the key port city of Mariupol.

According to Stelmach between 8pm last night and 6am this morning the pro-Russian rebels had violated the ceasefire 12 times, firing rocket launchers and heavy weapons at several sites, including the town of Avdiivka, north of Donetsk, Pisky on the eastern city's suburbs and the village of Opytne, north of Horlivka.

Stelmach also added that Shyrokyne had come under a swathe of attacks between yesterday evening and the early hours of this morning from rebels trying, unsuccessfully, to overrun Ukrainian positions in the vicinity of Mariupol.

Another statement by ATO said that rebels were "continuing the systematic destruction" of eastern Ukraine, having blown up a railway bridge near the village of Orihove, in Luhansk region.

These reports come after Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko said earlier today that the separatist rebels had begun withdrawing heavy artillery from the frontlines between rebel-held and government-held territories in Ukraine.

Newsweek cannot independently verify these accounts.

Pro-Russian Rebels Preparing Advance 'On All Fronts', Warn Ukraine Fighters | World