Heavy artillery fire roared Saturday in eastern Ukraine as fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists continued hours before a cease-fire was to take effect in the conflict that has killed more than 5,300 people. (Feb. 14)
ARTILLERY FIRE ROARED -- AND FLAMES ERUPTED -- SATURDAY IN EASTERN UKRAINE AS FIGHTING BETWEEN UKRAINIAN FORCES AND RUSSIA-BACKED SEPARATISTS CONTINUED IN THE HOURS BEFORE A CEASE-FIRE WAS DUE TO TAKE EFFECT.
UKRAINIAN MILITARY TRUCKS AND TANKS WERE SEEN MOVING ALONG A STRATEGIC ROAD BETWEEN ARTEMIVSK AND DEBALTSEVE, A KEY TRANSPORT CENTER... WHERE SOME OF THE FIERCEST CONFRONTATIONS AND HEAVIEST SHELLING HAS OCCURRED.
UKRAINIAN MILITARY SPOKESMAN ANDRIY LYSENKO SAID PRO-RUSSIAN FIGHTERS WERE TRYING TO QUOTE, "SOLVE TACTICAL TASKS" IN ADVANCE OF THE CEASEFIRE... AGREED TO THURSDAY BY THE LEADERS OF RUSSIA, UKRAINE, GERMANY AND FRANCE.
A GAS STATION IN THE REBEL-HELD CITY OF DONETSK BORE SOME MINOR DAMAGE FROM SHELLING ON SATURDAY... HAVING NARROWLY AVOIDED A WORST-CASE SCENARIO.
A WORKER DESCRIBED HOW A MISSILE EXPLODED BEFORE HITTING THE GROUND... ABOUT 55 YARDS FROM THE MAIN BUILDING, AND AWAY FROM THE GAS TANKS.
SOUNDBITE (Russian) Lyubov Fyodorovna, petrol station worker:
"If it had exploded at the point of hitting the ground, it would have blown up right into our building. What more can I tell you? But if it had hit this (gas) tank, can you imagine what would have happened?"
UNDER THE AGREEMENT REACHED THURSDAY, THE WARRING SIDES ARE TO STOP ALL FIGHTING AT MIDNIGHT SATURDAY, LOCAL TIME.
UKRAINE'S PRESIDENT PETRO POROSHENKO REITERATED A WARNING SATURDAY THAT HE PLANS TO IMPOSE MARTIAL LAW THROUGHOUT UKRAINE IF THIS LATEST ATTEMPT AT A CEASE-FIRE DOES NOT TAKE HOLD.
SOUNDBITE (Ukraine) Petro Poroshenko, President of Ukraine: "I warned before that if there's no peace, we may have to take the decision to impose martial law - a very difficult decision, but a necessary decision."
MORE THAN FIVE-THOUSAND PEOPLE HAVE BEEN KILLED SINCE THE CONFLICT BEGAN LAST APRIL.