Hours after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he was willing to order a ceasefire to help stem the flow of violence, separatists rebels refused the offer.
Ukrainian forces spokesman Vladyslav Seleznyov said to Reuters that, "We issued an ultimatum to the terrorists overnight to surrender their weapons. We guarantee their safety and investigation in line with Ukrainian law ... They refused... Now we are trying to narrow the encirclement. They are trying to break out."
Some rebel fighters also spoke about the truce, confirming that they had no interest in putting down arms. Leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, Denis Pushilin, believes the ceasefire is a Ukrainian ploy. "They will stop firing, we will disarm, and they will capture us unarmed — that’s Kiev’s logic," he said, adding, "we are interested in the occupiers leaving our territory, the occupiers who are now systematically destroying us." One separatist fighting outside of Donetsk said he thinks there's no turning back from the violence, at this point. "Maybe there was a way back when this all just started, when the people were out here with the flags to make their point, and before the killing," he said.
Fighting reportedly broke out around 4 a.m. on Thursday near the east Ukrainian town of Krasny Liman. Reuters describes the scene:
Up to 4,000 separatist fighters could be involved in Thursday's fighting near Krasny Liman, and armored vehicles and possibly tanks were being used by both sides, the military source said. The reported use of tanks could not be independently confirmed. Military sources said the Ukrainian forces had fired leaflets into rebel areas giving them an ultimatum to lay down their weapons in line with the Poroshenko blueprint.
The ceasefire would have been the first step in a peace plan proposed by the president to de-escalate tensions and violence in his country. Poroshenko appears to remain hopeful that peace can be achieved, and is still set to meet with "legitimate" rebel leaders from the east on Thursday — even though they don't appear to want to meet with him.