Ukraine and rebels trade blame for violating ceasefire

MOSCOW - Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists accused each other on Wednesday of attempting to break a six-month-old peace agreement, with a rebel official warning of the threat of "big war" if the ceasefire crumbles.
Ukraine's allies expressed particular concern this week after the Ukrainian military reported the heaviest rebel artillery attacks in six months and fresh fighting near the strategic port city of Mariupol.
Rebels have, in turn, accused government troops of increased shelling in defiance of the peace deal, brokered in Minsk, Belarus, in mid-February to end a conflict in which over 6,500 have been killed.
"We unfortunately can see the limitation of the implementation of the Minsk agreements on the part of Kiev, unfortunately we can see provocations on the part of Kiev," rebel envoy Denis Pushilin said in a briefing.
"Kiev most likely also understands that if the Minsk process will be halted as it is ... this means war ... not only in the Donbass (eastern Ukraine), but this may be a big war," he said.
Ivan Dacic, the head of security watchdog the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, on Tuesday described the latest escalation in separatist eastern regions as "alarming" and called on both sides to adhere to the ceasefire.
The OSCE has reported a significant increase of ceasefire violations in areas east and north of Mariupol.