Russia-backed separatists have destroyed the air traffic control tower at Donetsk International Airport in Ukraine, which has been on the front line of continuous conflict, even though a ceasefire was signed in September 2014.

The pro-Russian forces had given a deadline of 5pm local time to the Ukrainian military to vacate the airport, which is located in the eastern city of Donetsk.

According to the Ukrainian Independent Information Agency, the artillery reinforcements have slowed the pace of attack from the pro-Russian forces.

France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine were to meet in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Thursday but the talks were called off on Tuesday early morning due to lack of progress, reports International Business Times (IBT).

"The differences in opinion made it clear how difficult it is to make progress towards a political solution or a summit in Astana."

Citing a Ukrainian news website Liga, IBT noted that when the traffic control collapsed, the pro-Russian forces were within 400m.

It remains to be seen if the artillery reinforcements will thwart the efforts of the separatists from taking control of the airport, which would serve as a tactical advantage for the pro-Russian separatists.

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The fighting between the Ukrainian Government troops and separatists peaked for three days following which the air traffic control tower collapsed.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was quoted by the IBT as saying: "The differences in opinion made it clear how difficult it is to make progress towards a political solution or a summit in Astana, from which much is expected and which must be prepared."

Image: Donetsk Airport. Photo: courtesy of Michael1238 via Wikipedia.