Ukraine forces attack rebel positions

The decision quickly drew fire from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

FILE: Ukrainian forces struck at pro-Russian separatist bases in eastern regions on Tuesday. Picture: AFP.

KIEV - Ukrainian forces struck at pro-Russian separatist bases in eastern regions with air and artillery strikes on Tuesday after President Petro Poroshenko announced he would not renew a ceasefire but go on the offensive to rid Ukraine of "parasites".

His decision quickly drew fire from Russian President Vladimir Putin who said Poroshenko had disregarded the advice of himself and German and French leaders. Putin said Poroshenko would now have to bear full responsibility for veering off the road to peace.

Repeating a threat he made in March when Russia annexed Crimea, Putin said Moscow would continue to defend the interests of ethnic Russians abroad - up to three million of whom live in the east of Ukraine which has been in separatist ferment since April.

Within hours of Poroshenko's early morning announcement, his military went into action against rebel bases and checkpoints, bombarding them from the air and with artillery.

"The terrorists' plan to significantly escalate armed confrontation has been disrupted and the threat of losses to the civilian population and service personnel has been liquidated," the defence ministry said.

There was no immediate word on casualties.

Poroshenko, who accuses Russia of fanning the conflict and allowing fighters and equipment to cross the border to support the rebels, turned his back on another renewal of a 10-day unilateral ceasefire after the phone talks involving Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and France's Francois Hollande.

Showing impatience at what he had heard from Putin, Poroshenko said in his early morning statement that Ukraine had not seen "concrete steps for de-escalating the situation, including strengthening controls on the border".

Poroshenko, just over three weeks in office, faces a possible popular backlash at home over military losses during the ceasefire and was under pressure to switch to more forceful action against the rebels.