Pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine have vowed to muster another 10,000 men to boost their ranks to 100,000 as fighting continues.
Alexander Zakharchenko, leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DNR), claimed a “general mobilisation” would achieve the target but did not elaborate on details.
“A general mobilisation is planned in the DNR in 10 days. Ten thousand men will be called up,” the Russian RIA news agency quoted him saying.
“The joint army of the DNR and the LNR [Luhansk People's Republic] will be 100,000 men strong.
"Mobilisation is the first stage; there will be volunteers first and we will see what to do next."
Mr Zakharchenko, who was elected in a vote in November that was not recognised by the Ukrainian government or the West, did not say how many separatists were currently fighting.
Critics have said it was unlikely that the rebels could mobilise such a high number of troops, suggesting the announcement could be a guise to bring in more Russian volunteers.
Kiev, Nato and Western governments have presented evidence they say proves Russia has sent troops and weapons to support the rebels but Moscow denies this. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko put the number of Russian troops in the east last month at 9,000.
Fighting has increased in eastern Ukraine in the past few weeks and hopes of easing the situation faded after peace talks collapsed yet again on Saturday.
Ukrainian forces have also mobilised more troops because of the surge in fighting, lessening further the hopes for a peaceful revolution in the near future.
The US could be on the brink of sending military assistance to Ukraine’s floundering military, a source in Washington has said.
The anonymous official claimed that Barack Obama continues to have concerns about the move, including the risks of starting a proxy war with Russia and the Ukrainian military's capacity for using US-supplied weaponry.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the United States on Monday of supporting efforts to resolve the crisis in Ukraine with force after media reports that Washington is taking a new look at providing Kiev's forces with "lethal aid".
Ukraine crisis: A timeline of the conflict
Ukraine crisis: A timeline of the conflict
1/22 30 November 2013
Public support grows for the “Euromaidan” anti-government protesters in Kiev demonstrating against Yanukovych’s refusal to sign the EU Association Agreement as images of them injured by police crackdown spread.
2/22 20 February 2014
Kiev sees its worst day of violence for almost 70 years as at least 88 people are killed in 48 hours, with uniformed snipers shooting at protesters from rooftops.
3/22 22 February 2014
Yanukovych flees the country after protest leaders and politicians agree to form a new government and hold elections. The imprisoned former Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, is freed from prison and protesters take control of Presidential administration buildings, including Mr Yanukovych's residence.
Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Imageses
4/22 27 February 2014
Pro-Russian militias seize government buildings in Crimea and the new Ukrainian government vows to prevent the country breaking up as the Crimean Parliament sets a referendum on secession from Ukraine in May.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images
5/22 16 March 2014
Crimea votes overwhelmingly to secede from Ukraine and join Russia in a ballot condemned by the US and Europe as illegal. Russian troops had moved into the peninsula weeks before after pro-Russian separatists occupied buildings.
6/22 6 April 2014
Pro-Russian rebels seize government buildings in the eastern cities of Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv, calling for a referendum on independence and claiming independent republic. Ukraine authorities regain control of Kharkiv buildings on 8 April after launching an “anti-terror operation” but the rest remain out of their control.
7/22 7 June 2014
Petro Poroshenko is sworn in as Ukraine's president, calling on separatists to lay down their arms and end the fighting and later orders the creation of humanitarian corridors, since violated, to allow civilians to flee war zones.
8/22 27 June 2014
The EU signs an association agreement with Ukraine, along with Georgia and Moldova, eight months after protests over the abandonment of the deal sparked the crisis.
LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images
9/22 17 July 2014
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 is shot down over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board. Ukrainian intelligence officials claim it was hit by rebels using a Buk surface-to-air launcher in an apparent accident.
10/22 22 August 2014
A Russian aid convoy of more than 100 lorries enters eastern Ukraine and makes drop in rebel-controlled Luhansk without Government permission, sparking allegations of a “direct violation of international law”.
11/22 29 August 2014
Nato releases satellite images appearing to show Russian soldiers, artillery and armoured vehicles engaged in military operations in eastern Ukraine.
12/22 8 September 2014
Russia warns that it could block flights through its airspace if the EU goes ahead with new sanctions over the ongoing crisis and conflict
13/22 17 September 2014
Despite the cease-fire and a law passed by the Ukrainian parliament on Tuesday granting greater autonomy to rebel-held parts of the east, civilian casualties continued to rise, adding to the estimated 3,000 people killed
14/22 16 November 2014
The fragile ceasefire gives way to an increased wave of military activity as artillery fire continues to rock the eastern Ukraine's pro-Russian rebel bastion of Donetsk
15/22 26 December 2014
A new round of ceasefire talks, scheduled on neutral ground in the Belariusian capital Minsk, are called off
16/22 12 January 2015
Soldiers in Debaltseve were forced to prepare heavy defences around the city; despite a brief respite to the fighting in eastern Ukraine, hostilities in Donetsk resumed at a level not seen since September 2014
17/22 21 January 2015
13 people are killed during shelling of bus in the rebel-held city of Donetsk
18/22 24 January 2015
Ten people were killed after pro-Russian separatists bombarded the east Ukrainian port city of Mariupol
19/22 2 February 2015
There was a dangerous shift in tempo as rebels bolstered troop numbers against government forces
20/22 11 February 2015
European leaders meet in Minsk and agree on a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine beginning on February 14. From left to right: Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, France's President Francois Hollande and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
MAXIM MALINOVSKY | AFP | Getty Images
21/22 13 February 2015
Pro-Russian rebels in the city of Gorlivka, in the Donetsk region, fire missiles at Ukrainian forces in Debaltseve. Fighting continued in Debaltseve for a number of days after the Minsk ceasefire began.
ANDREY BORODULIN | AFP | Getty Images
22/22 18 February 2015
Ukrainian soldiers repair the bullet-shattered windshield of their truck as their withdraw from the strategic town of Debaltseve. Following intense shelling from pro-Russian rebels, Ukrainian forces began to leave the town in the early hours of February 18.
Brendan Hoffman | Getty Images
On hearing the reports, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said: “The rhetoric shows Washington's intention to continue doing everything possible to unconditionally support Ukraine's authorities who have apparently taken a course towards a military solution to the conflict.”
Prospects for a truce looked worse than ever after a new set of negotiations collapsed on Saturday in Minsk, Belarus, where the long-shattered peace treaty was drawn up between rebels and the government in September.
Dozens of civilians have been among those killed in recent days as shells rained on the rebel stronghold of Donetsk city and the besieged towns of Debaltseve and Vuhlehirsk.
Debaltseve, a strategic railway hub, has been almost completely surrounded by rebel forces and the one road still open for families to escape has been targeted by artillery fire.
Ukraine's government said on Sunday that 13 of its troops were killed and another 20 wounded in a day of fighting across the region.
More than 5,100 people have so far been killed in the conflict and more than 900,000 have been displaced since it began in April, according to UN estimates.
Additional reporting by agenciesReuse content