REPORTS: Pro-Moscow rebels just captured a Ukrainian town

Debaltseve tankREUTERS/Baz RatnerMembers of the separatist self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic army collect parts of a destroyed Ukrainian army tank in the town of Vuhlehirsk, about 10 km (6 miles) to the west of Debaltseve, February 16, 2015.

Reports in Russian media suggest that pro-Russian rebels have taken the railway town of Debaltseve from besieged Ukrainian government forces.

The rebels claim that most of the city is now under the control of armed groups loyal to the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic, according to Riga-based online newspaper and news aggregator Meduza.io. The article cites Ukrainian journalist Andrew Tsaplienko as saying that the police department and the railway station have been taken.

The move comes just days since a new ceasefire agreement came into effect in the country. Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko ordered his troops to stop firing at 10pm on Saturday local time. However, there have been widespread reports that fighting continued between government forces and pro-Moscow rebels around Debaltseve.

Even as the deal was being signed, Kiev reported that 50 tanks and 40 missile systems were spotted crossing the border into Ukraine from Russia, in what many saw as an effort to shore up the rebel position in disputed areas before the ceasefire came into force.

Yesterday the European Union increased the number of people and groups targeted under its sanctions regime. A number of militia groups currently participating in the fighting around Debaltseve were included.

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