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Tags: Ukraine | Russia | crisis | ceasefire

Poroshenko Says Ukraine Ceasefire Plan To Be Signed Friday

Thursday, 04 September 2014 11:51 AM EDT

Ukraine was poised Thursday to strike a Kremlin-backed ceasefire deal with rebel leaders after five months of a conflict that has inflamed East-West tensions.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said the peace blueprint would be signed on Friday at a meeting in Minsk brokered by the pan-European security body the OSCE.

The leaders of two pro-Russian rebel regions in Ukraine's eastern industrial heartland also said they were ready to issue orders to silence the guns once a deal is done.

The push for peace follows a dramatic surge in tensions after NATO reported that Russia had secretly sent in troops and heavy weapons to support the insurgents in a new counter-offensive that has seen Kiev's troops lose control of large areas of the southeast.

But in a sign of the future hurdles an agreement would face, AFP correspondents reported explosions on the outskirts of the key southeastern port city of Mariupol as Ukrainian forces battled separatist gunmen.

"Tomorrow in Minsk a document will be signed providing for the gradual introduction of the Ukrainian peace plan," Poroshenko said on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Wales on Thursday.

"It is very important that the first element provides for a ceasefire," he said.

Representatives of Kiev, Moscow, the separatist rebels and the OSCE are due to stage their second meeting of the week the Belarussian capital on Friday.

The heads of the self-declared "People's Republics" of Donetsk and Lugansk also issued a joint statement saying they were "ready to issue a ceasefire order if an agreement is reached and the Ukrainian representatives sign the political settlement plan."



Russian President Vladimir Putin had announced on Wednesday a seven-point blueprint aimed at halting the fighting after telephone talks with Poroshenko.

Analysts had said the timing of Putin's announcement appeared designed to head off possible new Western retaliatory measures over Russia's actions in the former Soviet state, which has sent alarm bells ringing in Europe and the United States.

Moscow has however vehemently denied any direct involvement in the conflict, and on Thursday Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Washington of actually undermining peace efforts.

His comments appeared to be linked to plans by Ukraine's pro-Western leaders to launch a renewed bid for membership of NATO, taking it further outside Moscow's orbit.

"A spike in anti-Russian rhetoric... just as we are seeing the most active efforts to reach a political settlement speaks only of the fact that a pro-war party in Kiev enjoys active support from outside, from the United States in this case," Lavrov said.

And in a move likely to further infuriate the Kremlin, Poroshenko said that NATO leaders would back stronger military support for Kiev at their summit in Wales.

"In its declaration, NATO will confirm resolute bilateral steps by its member states to support military and technological assistance for Ukraine," Poroshenko said. "This is exactly what we were waiting for."

The conflict has inflicting an increasingly heavy toll, with around 2,600 people dead since mid-April. The United Nations has reported that as many as one million people have been displaced.

"We need people to stop dying," said Poroshenko, whose unilateral ceasefire in June collapsed in a matter of days.

After weeks of being besieged by Ukrainian forces, the rebels suddenly appeared to gain the upper hand, advancing towards the southeast in what some saw as a Moscow-backed land grab to link Russia with annexed Crimea.

And the fighting was continuing on the ground on Thursday near the Mariupol, an important industrial port on the Sea of Azov.

"We are resisting but it difficult with just guns against armoured vehicles," Sergei, a volunteer with a pro-Kiev battalion told AFP at a roadblock at the eastern entrance of the city.

A top pro-Kiev official in Donetsk said Ukrainian forces had repelled a small rebel "reconnaisance mission" outside Mariupol and destroyed four tanks, but that the situation inside the city itself remained calm.


© AFP 2023

Ukraine was poised Thursday to strike a Kremlin-backed ceasefire deal with rebel leaders after five months of a conflict that has inflamed East-West tensions.Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said the peace blueprint would be signed on Friday at a meeting in Minsk...
Ukraine, Russia, crisis, ceasefire
Thursday, 04 September 2014 11:51 AM
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