Ukraine rearming in case of rebel offensive: Poroshenko

Kiev: Ukraine is rearming and deploying new units to the east of the country to counter any attempt by pro-Russian rebels to take over more territory, President Petro Poroshenko said Tuesday.

Ukraine rearming in case of rebel offensive: Poroshenko

Kiev: Ukraine is rearming and deploying new units to the east of the country to counter any attempt by pro-Russian rebels to take over more territory, President Petro Poroshenko said Tuesday.

At a crisis meeting of security chiefs in the capital Kiev, Poroshenko said that he had not given up on a deal brokered in September to end the seven-month conflict, in which more than 4,000 people have died.

"Ukraine remains a firm supporter of the peace plan," Poroshenko said. However, "other participants" of the Russian-supported truce accord are not meeting their obligations, he said, referring to Moscow and the rebels.

Poroshenko warned that Ukraine`s military was ready for any separatist attempt to mount a new offensive, as they have repeatedly threatened to do.

Troops were in place to defend cities from Mariupol on the Black Sea to Kharkiv in the northeast, near Russia, he said.

"We are obliged as the Ukrainian state not to allow the spread of this cancerous tumour, to ensure the blockade of this territory," he told his National Security and Defence Council.

The meeting was called after separatists staged leadership elections that were endorsed by Russia, but condemned by Ukraine, the United States, EU powers, and the head of the United Nations.

Poroshenko said the "pseudo" elections on Sunday had "torpedoed" a key provision of the September peace deal in which rebels would be given wide autonomy, while preserving Ukraine`s integrity.

The September accord -- signed by Ukraine, the rebels, Russia and the European security body OSCE in Minsk -- was meant to pave the way for a ceasefire and ultimately a political settlement.

But Poroshenko said he was asking parliament to "cancel" a law on autonomy for the rebel regions, a measure at the heart of the whole peace plan.

Constant ceasefire violations have already undermined the truce, with fighting breaking out across the conflict zone on Tuesday. Ukraine`s military announced the death of one soldier and five wounded.In the two rebel enclaves in the east, centered on the cities of Donetsk and Lugansk, the Kremlin-backed leaders added to the trappings of statehood with post-election inauguration ceremonies.

Artillery bombardments started up again outside Donetsk, AFP correspondents said. Observers from the OSCE said there had been heavy artillery fire in several other areas of southeastern Ukraine.

A drone used to help the observers came under "military grade" jamming, the OSCE said, adding that Ukrainian forces immediately said they were not responsible. On Sunday another OSCE drone came under anti-aircraft fire.

Analysts in Ukraine have warned that a surge in the fighting could follow the rebel elections. Donetsk insurgent president Alexander Zakharchenko has repeatedly stated that his forces intend to capture more territory, specifically Mariupol.

But Poroshenko said Ukraine was capable of withstanding an offensive.

Ukraine will be "prepared for decisive measures in the case of a negative scenario," he said. "Today, several new units and groupings have been formed, which will already allow us to stop any possible attack," he said.

Ukraine`s small army has been badly mauled during the more than half-year of battles with rebels who Western governments say are supplied and supported by regular Russian troops.

However, Poroshenko said "the supply of our armed forces with the very latest technology -- offensive, reconnaissance, guided systems -- is continuing quite effectively."

He also warned that his cash-strapped central government would consider cutting gas and electricity supplies to the rebel region.

"Under the law we should have long ago cut heating and energy," he said, as state-owned gas group Naftogaz said in a separate development that it had paid the first part of its debt to Russia`s Gazprom, in order to get deliveries flowing again.

The payment of $1.45 billion is just under half of the total $3.1 billion owed, which according to a deal done in October must be fully repaid by the end of the year for Russia to keep the taps on in 2015.Although Moscow has not recognised the rebel statelets` independence, its statement that it "respected" the elections` validity was likely to stiffen US and EU resolve on maintaining punishing sanctions against Russia.

The new EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said the rebel elections threatened to scuttle any chance of a peaceful solution.

"The main risk I see now is that we close this window of opportunity for internal dialogue and for dialogue with Russia" on implementing a peace plan all sides agreed in September, Mogherini said at a press conference with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.

The United States followed Europe in hammering Sunday`s rebel polls.

"These sham elections contravened Ukraine`s constitution... and the most basic electoral norms," said the White House, while the State Department warned Moscow that it risked further isolation by recognising the polls.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday also slammed the vote as "counterproductive" and called on all sides to return to the peace plan.