November 4, 2015 / 3:01 PM / 2 years ago

Ukraine says could suspend arms withdrawals from east after rebel attacks

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (R) welcomes Ukrainian servicemen who have been prisoners of war in separatist eastern regions, in Kiev, Ukraine October 31, 2015. REUTERS/Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Mykola Lazarenko/Pool

KIEV (Reuters) - The Ukrainian government will stop withdrawing light weapons from the frontline of its war against separatists in the east if the pro-Russian rebels continue to violate a ceasefire, a senior security official said on Wednesday.

Fighting between Ukrainian forces and separatists in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions has killed more than 8,000 people since it started in mid-April 2014.

A ceasefire has broadly held since September, but both sides accuse each other of an increase in violations.

Oleksander Turchynov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, said there had been nine ceasefire violations by the rebels in the past 24 hours alone.

“But unlike the previous provocations, the fire was targeted and of high intensity, resulting in five soldiers being wounded,” Turchynov said in a statement.

“In case of further provocative actions ... (Ukrainian) weapons will be returned immediately to the place of their previous location,” he said.

The two sides agreed last month to extend a pull-back of weapons from the frontline, a step rebels said at the time could mean an “end to the war” with the government.

Rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko in turn blamed Ukrainian forces for breaking a ceasefire which he said existed only on paper.

“Almost every day there are provocations by the Ukrainian forces,” the separatists’ news agency DAN quoted Zakharchenko as saying.

Reporting by Pavel Polityuk and Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Matthias Williams and Raissa Kasolowsky

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