Putin vows to protect Russians in east Ukraine - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, Florida-

Putin vows to protect Russians in east Ukraine

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Rebels responded to an offensive by attacking police stations and other government buildings in the city of Donetsk. (Source: FOX) Rebels responded to an offensive by attacking police stations and other government buildings in the city of Donetsk. (Source: FOX)

LONDON (FOX) - The cease-fire has ended in eastern Ukraine, and government forces are starting a huge new offensive against pro-Russian separatists.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin is vowing to protect ethnic Russians in the east.

Ukraine's president declared on Monday an end to a 10-day cease-fire in eastern Ukraine, one that had often been violated by both sides as minor skirmishes continued to flare.

But on Tuesday, some of the heaviest fighting since the start of the conflict as government forces went on a major offensive with troops, tanks, and airstrikes.

"Ukrainian forces are delivering massive air and artillery strikes at strongholds, checkpoints, bases and places of deployment of terrorists," said Andriy Lysenko, spokesperson for the national security and defense council of Ukraine.

The rebels responding by attacking police stations and other government buildings in the city of Donetsk. They took over a compound used by the Ukrainian interior ministry.

The growing tensions prompting a warning from Russia's Putin.

"Our country will from now on energetically defend the rights of fellow Russians abroad. And for that we will use all possible means," Putin said on Tuesday.

Most western countries are standing behind Ukraine and continuing to blame Russia for the uptick in violence.

"Putin was not adhering to what had been demanded by the European Union - primarily closing the border. And the cease-fire had also evaporated. It was a one-sided cease-fire from the Ukrainian side," said Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt.

The Obama administration is still calling for a political solution to end the conflict.

"The ultimate goal here is to get back to a cease-fire, back to a peace plan. But it takes two parties to put that into place and keep it in place," said Marie Harf, U.S. State Department spokesperson.

Lawmakers in Europe and the U.S. are threatening new economic sanctions against Russia, which could come as early as next week.

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