European and Ukrainian politicians signed a ceasefire with Russian president Vladimir Putin last week.
Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko said Russian-backed rebels endangered the deal.
But both sides stepped up fighting in a rush to strengthen their positions in time for the ceasefire.
Ukraine had to withdraw its guns 50 kilometres from the front line. So both sides fought over where the front line would be.
Western leaders are divided. German chancellor Angela Merkel wanted a deal to “stabilise” the situation. But US president Barack Obama is still weighing up sending “lethal aid” to the Ukrainian military.
The International Monetary Fund has agreed a £11.4 billion bailout, but is sure to demand harsh “structural reform”.
Sanctions and the tumbling oil price are hitting Russia’s economy. Putin hopes to buy time and keep Ukraine in chaos.
Poroshenko wants to use the deal’s clauses on Ukraine regaining its territory.
He is pushing for weapons to wage a war he can win.
This locks Ukraine further into its proxy war. All sides may be too weak to deliver the killer blow, but strong enough to keep the conflict rumbling with appalling consequences for ordinary people.