Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko has announced a week-long unilateral ceasefire in fighting with pro-Russian militants in the east of the country.
Heavy fighting had been continuing between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russia rebels, with new reports of military hardware entering Ukraine.
President Petro Poroshenko has announced a week-long unilateral ceasefire in fighting with pro-Russian militants in east Ukraine (photo Reuters)
The ceasefire had been expected ahead of the implementation of a peace plan.
However, correspondents say pro-Russian insurgents seem to have no intention of laying down their arms.
It comes a day after President Petro Poroshenko held his second phone conversation this week with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.
The peace plan proposed by Petro Poroshenko promises to decentralize power and hold early local and parliamentary elections.
It also proposes the creation of a 6 mile buffer zone on the Ukrainian-Russian border, and a safe corridor for pro-Russian separatists to leave the conflict areas.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has proposed a unilateral ceasefire by his troops to allow pro-Russian separatists to lay down their weapons.
Petro Poroshenko said the peace plan would be implemented “shortly”, Interfax-Ukraine news agency reports.
His announcement comes after Petro Poroshenko held a phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
They discussed a solution to the crisis in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian rebels are battling government forces.
More than 30 gunmen were killed and wounded in fighting near the town of Schastya in the Luhansk region on Tuesday, a spokesman for the government’s “anti-terrorism operation” said.
UN human rights investigators say the security situation in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions has deteriorated significantly over the past month.
Petro Poroshenko has proposed a unilateral ceasefire by Ukrainian troops to allow pro-Russian separatists to lay down their weapons
A report reveals a rising number of abductions and killings, with civilians increasingly caught in the cross-fire and thousands forced to flee the violence.
Meanwhile Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov has said an explosion at a major pipeline in central Ukraine was caused by a bomb.
He said explosives had been placed under a concrete support at the Urengoy-Pomary-Uzhgorod Pipeline.
No-one was reported injured by the blast. European and Russian companies said gas exports were not affected by Tuesday’s pipeline explosion.
Speaking at a graduation ceremony at the National University of Defense in Kiev, Petro Poroshenko said a “brief” truce would be introduced to allow “Russian mercenaries” to leave Ukraine.
The Kremlin confirmed that Petro Poroshenko and Vladimir Putin “touched upon” the issue of a possible ceasefire during their talks on Tuesday.
Correspondents say Petro Poroshenko has made similar comments in the past but it is not clear when the ceasefire will be implemented.
“The peace plan begins with my order for a unilateral ceasefire,” Interfax-Ukraine quoted the president as saying on Wednesday.
“Immediately after that, we must receive support for the presidential peace plan from all sides involved. This should happen very shortly.”
He said Russia was waging “a new type of warfare” with the use of professional subversive groups and volunteers.
Russia says it has launched a criminal investigation into Ukraine’s interior minister and a local governor over the killings of civilians and journalists.
Arsen Avakov and Igor Kolomoisky, governor of Dnipropetrovsk, are accused of organizing military operations, including rocket strikes, in cities such as Donetsk, Sloviansk and Mariupol that left more than 100 dead, Russian state media said.
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South Sudan’s army and rebels have accused each other of breaching a ceasefire, only hours after it was meant to come into effect.
The army said rebels attacked government positions in the early hours of Sunday in the town of Bentiu in oil-rich Unity State.
The rebels said their positions were targeted by ground attack and artillery in Unity and Upper Nile states.
South Sudan’s army and rebels have accused each other of breaching a ceasefire, only hours after it was meant to come into effect
A deal to end the five-month conflict was signed on Friday in Ethiopia.
At the signing ceremony in Addis Ababa, President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar met face-to-face for the first time since hostilities broke out and agreed to halt fighting within 24 hours.
But in a statement issued on Sunday, rebel military spokesman Lul Ruai Koang said the reported violations showed “that Kiir is either insincere or not in control of his forces.”
For the army, spokesman Philip Aguer said the rebel attacks in Bentiu had been repelled.
There has been no independent verification of either side’s claims.
A previous deal, made in January, collapsed in days, with each side accusing the other of breaching terms.
Earlier, the UN called on both sides to facilitate deliveries of emergency aid to a population in danger of mass hunger.
The UN estimates that some 5 million of South Sudan’s citizens are in need. At least 1.5 million have been displaced and thousands of people have been killed.
Toby Lanzer, the UN’s top aid official in the region, said roads and rivers must be opened for emergency relief.
The hope had been that the ceasefire would pave the way for the creation of a transitional government, the drafting of a new constitution and fresh elections.
The UN has accused both the South Sudanese government and the rebels of crimes against humanity, including mass killings and gang-rape.
The violence began when President Kiir accused his sacked deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup.
Riek Machar denied the allegation, but then marshaled a rebel army to fight the government.
The battle assumed ethnic overtones, with Riek Machar relying heavily on fighters from his Nuer ethnic group and Salva Kiir from his Dinka community.
South Sudan gained independence in 2011, breaking away from Sudan after decades of conflict between rebels and the Khartoum government.
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Kurdish rebels’ leader Abdullah Ocalan, who is now jailed in Turkey, has called for a truce after 30 years of war.
Abdullah Ocalan also urged his fighters to withdraw from Turkey, in a message read out to cheers during Kurdish New Year celebrations in the city of Diyarbakir.
The Turkish government cautiously welcomed the call, which follows months of talks between the PKK and Turkey.
More than 40,000 people have died in the 30-year fight for an ethnic Kurdish homeland in Turkey’s south-east.
Hundreds of thousands of people were present in Diyarbarkir to hear Abdullah Ocalan’s message.
“The language spoken is that of peace. We should see the implementation,” Turkish Interior Minister Muammer Guler told the state-run Anadolu news agency.
Several previous ceasefire attempts between the two sides have failed.
However, the announcement is potentially an important step towards ending the 30-year long conflict between Kurdish rebels and the Turkish state.
This time, Abdullah Ocalan and Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan – the two key figures involved – are talking via intermediaries. But the real test of the announcement will be in its implementation.
Abdullah Ocalan is still the final decision-maker among the Kurds, despite the 14 years he has spent in jail. He is serving a life sentence for treason.
PKK chief Abdullah Ocalan calls for ceasefire after 30 years of war with Turkey
The announcement was read out in the mainly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir in Kurdish and in Turkish.
“We have reached the point where weapons should be silent and ideas and politics should speak. A new phase in our struggle is beginning,” Abdullah Ocalan’s message said.
“Now a door is opening to a phase where we are moving from armed resistance to an era of democratic political struggle.
“Now it is time for our armed units to move across the border [to northern Iraq]. This is not an end but a new beginning. This is not abandoning the struggle, but a start to a different struggle.”
It is not immediately clear when this withdrawal will take place – or whether the PKK will ultimately choose to disarm.
Abdullah Ocalan had told Kurdish politicians who visited him earlier this week at his prison on the island of Imrali that his declaration would be “historic”.
In February the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) leader, who has been in Turkish custody since his capture in Kenya in 1999, called for prisoners to be released by both sides.
The PKK freed eight Turkish soldiers and officials it had held captive in northern Iraq for up to two years.
The PKK launched its armed campaign in 1984 and is regarded by Turkey, the US and EU as a terrorist organization. Last year saw some of the heaviest fighting in decades.
The organization rolled back on its demands for an independent Kurdish state in the 1990s, calling instead for more autonomy.
Reports say the PKK wish list now includes greater constitutional and linguistic rights for Kurds, as well as an easing of pressure on Kurdish activists.
The government has also not dismissed speculation that Abdullah Ocalan could be moved to house arrest.
On the eve of the truce call, Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned a number of blasts in the capital blamed on a left-wing group which opposes the talks with the PKK. He promised to push ahead with “extremely critical and sensitive” peace efforts, which have been going on since October.
Abdullah Demirbas, a district mayor in Diyarbakir, told Reuters news agency there would be more attempts to sabotage talks, but this was a last chance for peace.
“The PKK, Ocalan and the government must be brave… There is massive social support for this process.”