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Poroshenko Prepares a Unilateral Cease-Fire in Eastern Ukraine

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Ukrainian President Petro O. Poroshenko said on Wednesday that he was prepared to call a cease-fire by government troops as a step in ending a conflict with pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country, Ukrainian and Russian news services reported.

The prospect of an end to the military action against pro-Russian rebels followed a phone call Tuesday night between Mr. Poroshenko and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in which a potential cease-fire was discussed.

Mr. Poroshenko, in an interview on Wednesday, said that he would order the cease-fire as soon as the border between Russia and Ukraine was secured, according to UNIAN, a Ukrainian news service.

“The plan will begin with my order for a unilateral cease-fire,” Mr. Poroshenko said, according to Interfax, the Russian news agency. According to UNIAN, Mr. Poroshenko said he believed that a cease-fire would then receive the support of “all illegal military units.”

The Kremlin, in a statement late Tuesday after the two leaders spoke by telephone, said, “The heads of state discussed current bilateral relations issues. They touched on the topic of a possible cease-fire in areas of southeastern Ukraine engaged in hostilities.” There was no immediate comment from the Kremlin on Mr. Poroshenko’s cease-fire plan.

Mr. Poroshenko’s office, in a statement Wednesday, confirmed the telephone call with Mr. Putin and said the presidents had discussed the conditions that could lead to a durable cease-fire.

“The president held phone talks with the Russian president in the context of implementing the president of Ukraine’s peace plan, including in relation to the de-escalation of the situation in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions,” the Ukrainian statement said. “The presidents of Ukraine and Russia discussed a number of priority measures to be taken for a sustainable cease-fire, and the effective ways of monitoring it.”

The statement said Mr. Poroshenko had also urged Mr. Putin “to assist in the release of all detained journalists and activists.”

In a speech at the graduation of the National Defense University on Wednesday, Mr. Poroshenko described the conflict in eastern Ukraine as a new, more sinister brand of warfare. “This is a new type of war, using professional, subversive groups, mercenaries, volunteers, local people,” he said, according to the UNIAN news service. “These volunteers and the local people are brainwashed, with a large component of information warfare.”

Mr. Poroshenko expressed confidence that Ukraine would prevail in the fight. “We will win,” he said.

Russia has insisted that it does not control or speak for the pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, but senior Russian officials, including the foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, have insisted that the Ukrainian government must stop its military crackdown in the east and also expressed confidence that rebels would then put down their arms.

Previous agreements between Russia and the West calling for a peaceful settlement in eastern Ukraine have brought no results.

Mr. Poroshenko, who was inaugurated earlier this month, has said he will not negotiate with armed “terrorists” in eastern Ukraine but has offered to engage in dialogue with residents of the region to hear their concerns.

The Kremlin, in its statement, said Mr. Putin had also conveyed unhappiness over the deaths of two members of a Russian television news crew who were killed in eastern Ukraine.

“Vladimir Putin expressed concern regarding the tragic death of Russian journalists in Luhansk and highlighted the need for an absolute assurance of security for members of the media working in Ukraine’s conflict zones,” the statement said.

The Kremlin added, “Petro Poroshenko expressed his condolences regarding the death of Russian media representatives and assured the president of Russia that corresponding investigations will be carried out on his instructions and necessary measures will be taken to ensure safety for journalists.”

Separately, a Russian natural gas company executive said the flow of Russian gas to Europe through Ukraine was unaffected by an explosion on a Ukrainian pipeline on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

Gazprom cut off gas supplies to Ukraine on Monday after negotiations over Ukraine’s gas payments fell apart. The Urengoy-Pomary-Uzhgorod pipeline, which was hit by the blast, is the main transit route for Russian gas to the European Union via Ukraine.

Ukraine said on Tuesday that it was treating the explosion as a possible “act of terrorism.”

June 18 2014, 15:37

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