Separatist commander says can fire on Ukrainian transport hub town despite truce

DONETSK (Reuters) - A senior pro-Russian separatist commander said on Sunday that, despite a ceasefire, rebels have the right to fire on the town of Debaltseve in east Ukraine as it is "our territory."

The truce between government troops and rebels came into force at midnight. The Ukrainian military have since reported shelling around Debaltseve, a strategic transport hub north-east of the separatist stronghold of Donetsk.

"Of course we can open fire (on Debaltseve), it is our territory... The territory is inside, it is ours," Eduard Basurin told Reuters by phone, saying that elsewhere separatists were observing the truce.

At around 0700 GMT a Reuters witness in nearby Artemivsk heard the sound of heavy artillery fire coming from the direction of the town, where government forces have been hard pressed in recent weeks by encircling separatists.

A few hours later shelling could still be heard.

"After midnight, shelling stopped in the majority of the Ukrainian-controlled hot spots in Luhansk region ...However a complete ceasefire has not come into effect," the head of the Kiev-controlled Luhansk administration, Hennadiy Moskal, said in an online statement.

(Reporting by Alessandra Prentice; editing by John Stonestreet)