Germany condemns Russian-backed rebels' advance on Ukrainian town of Debaltseve

The German government has condemned pro-Russian rebels' advance on the Ukrainian town of Debaltseve and denounced it as "a massive violation" of a cease-fire that came into effect at the weekend.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said Wednesday that the onslaught on Debaltseve places "serious strain on the (Minsk) agreement as well as hopes for peace in eastern Ukraine overall."

Asked whether Germany considers the cease-fire agreement brokered in the Belarusian capital last week by the German and French leaders to have failed, Seibert replied: "To be honest, I can't answer this question today with either a clear 'yes' or a clear 'no.'"

Seibert welcomed Tuesday's approval of a Russian-backed U.N. resolution endorsing the cease-fire agreement and said Russia will have to be reminded of its commitments.