Ukraine crisis: Ceasefire between Government forces and rebels extended over weekend

The army could break it early if the insurgents renege on the deal

The fragile ceasefire between Government forces and pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine has been extended until Monday evening.

The President, Petro Poroshenko, announced the change on his website after signing a landmark free trade deal at a European Union summit – the very agreement that triggered the protests against former President Viktor Yanukovych.

The ceasefire was due to end on Friday night but will now last until 10pm on Monday.

Battles intensified in May after the newly-elected President vowed to crush the "terrorist" rebellion and civilians were among the casualties in the army's assault on rebel-held areas on Donetsk.

A statement from Mr Poroshenko’s office said the extension was in line with a deadline set by EU leaders for separatists to agree to ceasefire arrangements, return border checkpoints to Government authorities and free hostages including detained international observers from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

A landslide presidential victory has given Petro Poroshenko the mandate to get tough Petro Poroshenko extended the ceasefire At a separate meeting, Mr Poroshenko and national security chiefs said they wanted recruitment centres for insurgency fighters across the border in Russia should be closed for the next three days.

Movements of rebel forces around the east and the setting up of rebel checkpoints and barricades should also stop, they said.

 

 

The announcement threatened that Government forces could end the ceasefire early if the conditions were not observed.

Both sides have already been accused of violating the peace but the Ukrainian Defence Minister, Mykhailo Koval, was quoted by the Interfax news agency on Saturday saying the situation in the east was largely quiet.

Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, has acknowledged that his government has some leverage with the rebels but denied supporting their insurgency.

“There are reasons to believe that they hear us on other aspects of Russian position regarding the crisis in Ukraine, but that doesn't mean that they immediately move to heed our calls,” he said.

Four observers from the OSCE have been released from weeks of captivity but four more are still being held.

A rebel leader promised to free them in the next few days on Friday.

Alexander Borodai promised to abide by the extended ceasefire but rejected the EU leaders' demand to retreat from three checkpoints on the border with Russia.

Additional reporting by Reuters and AP

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