Ukrainian armed forces take their position near Debaltseve, eastern Ukraine February 16, 2015. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
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Pro-Russian rebels pounded encircled Ukrainian government forces Monday and Kiev said it would not pull back heavy guns while a truce was being violated, leaving a European-brokered peace deal on the verge of collapse.At least six tanks as well as armored personnel carriers and artillery could be seen in woods near Vuhlehirsk, 10 km west of Debaltseve, which the rebels captured a week ago.A rebel commander, Eduard Basurin, said Ukrainian troops had violated the cease-fire 27 times in the past 24 hours.Kiev said its forces had been shelled more than 100 times in eastern Ukraine since the truce took effect, five of its servicemen had been killed and 25 wounded, and that it could not carry out an agreement to pull back big guns in such conditions.The West says Putin, who has called parts of Ukraine "New Russia," has sent troops and weapons to back the rebels.Hopes that Thursday's deal will end a conflict that has killed more than 5,000 people have been dampened by the collapse of an earlier truce when rebels advanced last month.
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