Ukraine rebels say they are open to a cease-fire

(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) – A top rebel leader says the eastern city of Donetsk is surrounded by Ukrainian troops and his forces are willing to accept a cease-fire in order to stave off a humanitarian catastrophe.

There was no immediate government response to the statement Saturday from Aleksandr Zakharchenko, the so-called prime minister of the Donetsk separatists.

The thunder of artillery reverberated through the nearly deserted streets of Donetsk, the largest rebel-held city.

Russia, which the Ukrainian government and Western countries allege is supporting the rebels, has called repeatedly for a humanitarian mission into eastern Ukraine. But Kiev and the West suggest that could be just a pretext to send in Russian forces.

Zakharchenko’s statement could be aimed at increasing the international pressure to allow in a Russian mission.

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