Ukraine orders ceasefire in fight against separatists
Published 21/06/2014 | 02:30
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko ordered a seven-day ceasefire in the fight against pro-Russian separatists, but also warned them they could face death if they did not use the time to put down their guns.
In Moscow, the Kremlin, whose support Mr Poroshenko needs for his plan to end the insurgency in the rebellious east, denounced the ceasefire as an ultimatum to separatists rather than a peace offering.
Mr Poroshenko, installed only three weeks ago as president after seven months of turmoil in the ex-Soviet republic, ordered government forces to cease firing to allow his peace plan for the region to take root.
But after fierce fighting on Thursday about 100 km from the Russian border that apparently caused heavy losses for separatists and some deaths on the Ukrainian side, Mr Poroshenko backed his declaration with a warning to the rebels.
Interfax news agency quoted him as telling military officers in the east that the temporary ceasefire would give the rebels just one week to lay down their arms, after which "they will have to be eliminated".
The ceasefire "does not mean that we will not fight back in the event of aggression towards our military," his website quoted him as saying.
The ceasefire will run until June 27, it said.
After the ceasefire announcement, Mr Poroshenko launched a 15-point peace plan to end the insurgency in the pro-Russian east which erupted in April after street protests in the capital Kiev toppled the Moscow-backed Viktor Yanukovich.
Russia subsequently annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula. Kiev's new authorities quickly saw the hand of Moscow when separatist groups took control of strategic buildings and towns in the east, and declared they wanted to join Russia.
Meanwhile, in Donetsk, the main industrial hub in the region, the rebels remained unmoved by Mr Poroshenko's ceasefire gesture or the unveiling of a peace plan.
"When they (the Kiev side) pull out their army, then you will have our reaction," a spokeswoman for the self-styled Donetsk People's Republic said.
The first soldiers for a people's republic army would take oaths of allegiance on Donetsk's Lenin Square today, she announced defiantly.