At first sight it seemed an improbable appointment: a man who had served twice as president of neighbouring Georgia, parachuted in as governor of a single region of Ukraine.
Ukraine's military accused pro-Russian rebels on Monday of using heavy weapons that were meant to have been withdrawn under a ceasefire deal, after one Ukrainian serviceman was killed and six wounded in rebel-held territories.
Empty, wet fields line the crumbling road, which is sporadically marked with handmade signs whose painted red skulls warn of the unexploded land mines in open areas between the territories.
Ukraine said one soldier was killed in clashes with separatists, while regional officials said 22 tanks crossed the border from Russia into the conflict zone.
Heavy machinegun and light artillery fire pounded a district of Donetsk, the biggest city of eastern Ukraine, on Monday and pro-Russian rebels said there had been no lull in the fighting since a February ceasefire.
The House of Lords EU committee claimed Europe "sleepwalked" into the crisis.
The EU had not realised the depth of Russian hostility to its plans for closer relations with Ukraine, it said.
Ukrainian President Poroshenko on Wednesday called for European peacekeepers to enforce a shattered ceasefire deal in east Ukraine after a flashpoint strategic town fell to a fierce assault by pro-Russian rebels.
A Reuters witness near the front line said artillery rounds rocked the town of Debaltseve every five seconds and black smoke rose skywards, despite a truce that has eased fighting in many areas since the European-brokered deal took effect on Sunday.
Fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed rebel militias in the east of the country intensified on Saturday as fears grew for the durability of a ceasefire agreement that took effect at 12:01am on Sunday local time (10:01pm GMT on Saturday).