Ukrainian tanks and fighter bombers launched a ferocious assault against pro-Russian separatist insurgents yesterday after Kiev dismissed European pressure to save a tenuous 10-day truce.
The resumption of the worst fighting in Europe in nearly two decades drew the instant wrath of Russian President Vladimir Putin and set off a new international scramble to regain some control over events in the strategic ex-Soviet state.
In an emotional late-night address, Western-backed President Petro Poroshenko told the nation that the ceasefire had been used by the militias to regroup and stock up on heavy arms from Russia. Poroshenko told that insurgents had attacked Ukrainian positions more that 100 times during the truce.
Ukrainian defence ministry spokesman Oleksiy Dmytrashkivsky said a "massive artillery and air offensive" had been unleashed in the eastern rustbelt, home to seven million mostly Russian speakers.
Russia immediately expressed its "deep regret" while France's foreign minister vowed there would be no letup in Western efforts to find a lasting solution to the crisis.
Putin said Poroshenko was assuming responsibility for future casualties. The foreign ministry said Kiev would "have to answer for crimes against peaceful civilians".
Both separatist fighters and pro-Kiev leaders reported heavy exchanges of artillery fire and air bombardments across the rebel stronghold Russian border regions of Lugansk and Donetsk.
Poroshenko's decision to resume the conflict came just hours after the leaders of France and Germany joined him on a conference call to Putin -- the third such conversation in five days. But the contacts have mostly failed to halt 11 weeks of fighting that have killed more than 450 people.