Ukraine: government troops move against pro-Russian separatists - live updates

• Ukrainian troops move into Slavyansk and Donetsk.
• Obama warns of new sanctions.
• Russia says Geneva deal ‘to be implemented in practical steps.

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Ukraine’s acting president calls for action against pro-Russian separatists

Ukraine’s acting president has called for the resumption of military operations against pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country, claiming two of his party’s supporters had been “tortured to death”, in a further blow to an unravelling international peace plan.

Oleksandr Turchynov said “counter-terrorist” operations in the region, suspended as part of the peace agreement in Geneva last Thursday, should restart after the bodies of two men, one a pro-Kiev politician, had been found near the rebel-held town of Slavyansk. Full story

Photograph: Itar-Tas/Barcroft Media

Tony Blair to say battle against Islamic extremism is paramount

The former prime minister will warn the west it needs to take sides in the Middle East and move the battle against Islamist extremism to the top of the political agenda.

In a speech to Bloomberg in London on Wednesday, he will say:

The important point for western opinion is that this is a struggle with two sides. So when we look at the Middle East and beyond it to Pakistan or Iran and elsewhere, it isn’t just a vast unfathomable mess with no end in sight and no one worthy of our support. It is in fact a struggle in which our own strategic interests are intimately involved; where there are indeed people we should support and who, ironically, are probably in the majority if only that majority were mobilised, organised and helped.

Full story | Live reaction to Tony Blair’s speech

Photograph: Matt Rourke/AP

Syrian rebels warn of potential Homs massacre as regime troops advance

Syrian government forces stepped up efforts to advance on opposition areas of the central city of Homs on Thursday amid warnings of a potential massacre following months of siege and starvation.

But reports from the scene described rebels clinging to their positions despite tank shelling, sniper fire and air strikes mounted to help government troops recapture several enclaves in the old city. Full story

Photograph: Stringer/Reuters

Ukraine crisis: Geneva talks produce agreement on defusing conflict

The US, Russia, Ukraine and the European Union have reached an agreement aimed at pulling eastern Ukraine back from the brink of war.

The deal calls for the disarming of all illegal groups, who will have to vacate all occupied government buildings and public spaces. Full story

Pictured: Seven hours of negotiations in Geneva ended in agreement on a series of ‘concrete steps’. Photograph: Eric Bridiers/EPA

Ed Miliband signs up top Obama adviser David Axelrod for UK election

Barack Obama’s most influential adviser during two presidential victories has been hired to advise Labour on its 2015 election campaign, ensuring that Ed Miliband will put inequality and the break between family finances and economic growth at the centre of his election campaign. Full story

Photograph: Jason Reed/Reuters

Pro-Russian militia killed in attempt to storm Ukrainian military base

Three pro-Russian militia were killed and 13 injured in clashes with Ukrainian troops in the south-east city of Mariupol on Wednesday night, according to Ukraine’s interior ministry.

Interior minister Arsen Avakov said on Thursday that the separatists were killed during an attempt to storm a Ukrainian base by some 300 people, armed with guns and petrol bombs. None of the interior ministry troops defending the base on the Sea of Azov were injured, Avakov said on his Facebook page. Full story

Pictured: People carry a man injured during pro-Russian protests near the Ukrainian military base in Mariupol. Photograph: Stringer/Reuters

Nato to step up presence near Russian borders

Nato has announced it is stepping up its presence around Russian borders to reassure eastern European member states, in an effort also aimed at increasing pressure on Moscow before international talks on the Ukrainian crisis on Thursday in Geneva.

Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said:

We will have more planes in the air, more ships on the water, and more readiness on the land. 

Full story | Click here to follow the latest developments

Photograph: Marko Djurica/Reuters

“The west should have taken steps to make absolutely sure that eastern Ukraine would not fall too. That required a big stick, and big carrots too – or at least some subtle diplomacy. Instead we got utterly meaningless sanctions aimed at the wrong people (Putin’s big-business cronies do not determine his foreign policies).”
Angus Roxburgh: The west is obliged to defend Ukraine – and Putin must know what that means.

Pro-Russian separatists seize Ukrainian armoured vehicles

Pro-Russian armed separatists have seized five armoured personnel carriers and a tank from the Ukrainian army, which they then drove in a victory lap through the centre of Kramatorsk in Ukraine’s east, where government forces are attempting to wrest back control of the city.

About 100 heavily armed men, some in balaclavas and wearing military fatigues, rode on top of the seized armoured vehicles, the first of which was flying a Russian tricolour. Full story

Photograph: Luke Harding