KIEV: Ukraine’s n ew Western-backed president announced plans on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) to order a unilateral ceasefire in the separatist east that could help end a bloody pro-Russian insurgency and avert his ex-Soviet country’s breakup.
Petro Poroshenko took a further step towards relieving tensions with Russia by deciding to replace acting Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsya—a hate figure in Moscow—with his current envoy to Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe-mediated negotiations with the Kremlin.
But he also appealed for US and European Union (EU) help to secure his country’s porous border with Russia and stem the influx of arms and militants into the conflict zone.
The frontier has witnessed ferocious clashes in recent weeks in which militants armed with Russian-made rocket launchers have attacked Ukrainian border guard camps and ambushed army patrols.
A Ukrainian defense spokesman said the rebels had recently “stepped up their activities” and killed three soldiers.
But the respected Dzerkalo Tyzhnia news site cited defense sources as saying the fighting had killed 15 soldiers and left 13 others missing.
Poroshenko unveiled his peace initiative after late-night talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in which the Kremlin chief also raised concern about the death in Lugansk fighting on Tuesday of two members of a Russian state TV crew.
“The peace plan begins with my order for a unilateral ceasefire,” Poroshenko told reporters in Kiev.
For his part, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said: “On the one hand, they are talking about a ceasefire. And on the other, they are continuing their aggression.”