Ukraine: Separatist leaders agree to cease-fire

World Today

A girl says goodbye to her friend, a volunteer, before they are sent to the eastern part of Ukraine to join the ranks of special battalion “Azov”, during a ceremony to take the oath of allegiance to Ukraine in Kiev, Ukraine. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)

Separatist leaders in two main areas of Ukraine’s east have agreed to observe a ceasefire in their conflict with Ukrainian forces until June 27. According to Alexander Boroday, who is “prime minister” for the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, the Luhansk and Donetsk Republics have both agreed to the truce.

The meeting leading up to it featured a ‘contact group’ which included a former Ukrainian president, Moscow’s envoy to Kiev and a representative of the OSCE security watchdog. The truce will run parallel to a unilateral Ukrainian military ceasefire declared by President Petro Poroshenko on Friday as part of a peace plan to end an insurgency by separatists in the Russian-speaking east of Ukraine.

“We have agreed a two-way ceasefire until 10 a.m. on the morning of June 27 … one of the key problems has been resolved,” ex-president Leonid Kuchma, who took part in the talks, said.

Though Poroshenko announced his ceasefire last Friday, Kiev reported a spate of attacks on Ukrainian military and border posts over the weekend. Boroday’s announcement came at the end of the first day of non-violence in the rebellious east in weeks.

“For the period from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. no incidents of use of weapons were recorded,” Volodymyr Chepovy, an official of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, said. “There were no attempts to seize administrative buildings or military points etc.,” he said.

Scores of people have been killed and wounded in Ukraine since the rebellions erupted in Ukraine’s industrial east in April following the toppling of the Moscow-backed Viktor Yanukovich in February and Russia’s subsequent seizure of Crimea.

They include about 150 Ukrainian servicemen, including 49 who died when a cargo plane was brought down by rebel fire, and scores of rebels and ordinary citizens in the worst fighting since Ukraine secured indendence from the Soviet Union in 1992.

Poroshenko has refused direct dialogue with the separatist leaders themselves despite Moscow’s urging, and Monday’s consultations appeared an attempt to meet Russian demands half-way.

Report compiled with information from Reuters.