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Tuesday 12 December 2017

Ukrainian president ends ceasefire

People gather for a rally in Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine, against the ceasefire (AP)
People gather for a rally in Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine, against the ceasefire (AP)

Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko says he is halting a unilateral ceasefire in the conflict with pro-Russian separatists and says Ukrainian forces will go on the offensive against the rebels.

A statement from Mr Poroshenko on his website said the ceasefire is being halted and that "we will attack and we will free our country".

The fragile ceasefire expired earlier tonight. The idea was to give rebels a chance to disarm and to start a broader peace process including an amnesty and new elections.

But rebels did not disarm and the ceasefire was continually violated. Rebels did not comply with Mr Poroshenko's latest push to get them to turn over key border crossings with Russia and permit international monitoring of the ceasefire.

"The unique chance to put the peace plan into practice was not realised," Mr Poroshenko said in a speech prepared for delivery to the nation. "This happened because of the criminal actions of the fighters."

He had already extended the ceasefire from seven days as part of a plan to end the fighting that has killed more than 400 people since April.

Mr Poroshenko's decision followed four-way talks in search of a solution with Russian president Vladimir Putin, German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Francois Hollande as the deadline approached.

He issued a statement after the talks saying the key conditions needed to continue the ceasefire had not been met.

European leaders and the US have urged Russia to use its influence with the rebels to ease the bloodshed and have threatened to impose another round of economic sanctions against Moscow.

While Mr Putin has expressed support for the ceasefire, the West has accused Russia of allowing weapons and fighters to flow across the border into Ukraine.

Mr Poroshenko said he meant for a ceasefire to be followed by an amnesty for fighters not considered to have committed serious crimes, and political concessions such as early local and regional elections, protections for speakers of Russian and, in the longer term, changes to the constitution to decentralise power to the regions.

Press Association

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